The Ludlow Foyer is highly regarded for its work with young people. It provides a secure and supported pathway from a difficult childhood into work and independent accommodation. But it could well close as local and national spending cuts bite.
The Foyer provides low cost rented flats for fifteen young people (aged 16-25) who are continuing education, starting training or a job. The level of rent, currently £212 a week, means that many residents rely on benefits to secure their accommodation. The cost is worth it. Young people at the Foyer are supported by key workers. They sign up to a training plan and are supported into work. Young people arrive in difficulty and leave with greater confidence. In money terms alone, this will lead to lower social costs later in life. But most importantly, young people will have been given a boost that will improve their life chances and wellbeing.
The Foyer has been helping young people since 2000. But it is now facing the threat of closure because the finances no longer stack up in a period of cuts.
The first financial threat comes from central government. It is proposing to cap housing related benefits to a level known as the “Local Housing Allowance” for new tenancies. The cap comes in from April 2018 and will hit the Foyer quickly because residents are only allowed a two-year tenancy. The cap pins housing benefit to a shared room rate – the accommodation in the Foyer is single bedrooms – and will not cover the full service charges of a housing scheme that provides 24×7 support.
The second threat comes from cuts to Shropshire Council’s supported housing budget. Currently this is £3.1 million. In April 2017, that budget could be cut by nearly two-thirds (£1.9 million). There will not be enough money to support projects like the Foyer.
There is a glimmer of hope if Shropshire Council allocates Discretionary Housing Payments to young people in the Foyer. But this cannot be guaranteed and the council has consistently underspent on DHP and handed money back to the government.
It would be a disaster for young people if the Foyer were to close. It is one of Shropshire’s great success stories. It shelters, guides and trains young people. Most leave the Foyer with jobs and much better chances in life.
If we didn’t have the Foyer, some of these young people would drift into homelessness. Others would fail to find jobs. This would cost us more in benefits that the Foyer costs. But most important, young people won’t have been helped.
I am really impressed by the work of the Foyer. If it were to close, it would show that Shropshire Council and the government have abandoned all hope of helping vulnerable young people.
We have a duty to help young people in difficulty. We cannot discard a whole generation of vulnerable young people. That will only store up problems for the future.
The success of the Ludlow Foyer
Ludlow Foyer houses care leavers or “permanently estranged” young people and many 16 and 17 year olds, saving Shropshire Council money in temporary accommodation costs and ensuring a safer placement for these young people than a bed and breakfast placement.
Training. Foyer residents are given opportunities to gain new skills, by either taking up formal education courses or getting involved in centre-led projects, such as a current initiative to learn and use multi-media skills, including video-making and computer editing. The training is individually tailored to each resident to enable them to become more independent, so that eventually they can take on a tenancy of their own.
Qualifications. In 2012/2013, 58% of the young people entering the Foyer had no formal qualifications against a national average of 23%, yet by the end of their time with the Foyer, 89% were in further education with 22% going onto higher education. Nearly three quarters were completing recognised qualifications (72%).
Employment. Even more impressive were the employment findings. Only 6% were in employment when they got in touch with the Foyer, against a national average of 9%. After their Foyer stay 100% of the young people were deemed work ready. In fact, 100% were in work, with a very healthy 64% having started work during their time with the Foyer. All the young people associated with the scheme also took part in volunteering. The Ludlow Foyer is linked to Young Shropshire in Work, a charity founded by the Mayor, which raises funds to remove obstacles from young people getting into work. The charity has a network of volunteer mentors from the town.