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National Homeless Advice Service

Exploring options: mediation, respite and planning for the future

Although remaining at home is not an option for every young person, young people will usually have improved life-chances the longer they remain in the family home.

This page looks at some examples of early intervention through family and home-based support, how mediation can help in times of crisis, and other options to consider for young people who may need to leave (or have temporarily left) the family home.

Although many of the options discussed here will be more appropriate for young people under the age of 18, some will also be relevant in preventing housing crisis for young people over the age of 18. They may also be relevant to young people returning to the family home after a period spent in care or living with friends or extended family.

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Supporting families to stay together

Families under stress may see living apart as the best solution. But rather than rushing towards an exit, young people and their families can be supported to continue living together, through parenting support and/or family mediation.

Parenting or family support can provide practical help to young people and families in dealing with conflicts in family relationships, learning how to resolve their difficulties, and helping the young person to remain in the family home until it is appropriate for them to leave.

These services can help avoid family breakdown by supporting parents and teenagers to:

  • resolve disagreements and conflicts before they become a crisis
  • prevent problems escalating to the point of crisis
  • improve communication and relationship skills, learning how to compromise and how to improve and strengthen parent-teenager relationships.

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Mediation and counselling with young people and parents

Mediation has a role to play before, during and even after a crisis. A mediator can act as a neutral third party to help young people and parent/carers communicate with each other to try to reach a compromise on issues of conflict, and work together to find solutions to their problems and differences.

Family mediation for young people aged under 16 years of age

For young people under the age of 16, family mediation works to try to help young people resolve family problems, and to reduce the risk of family breakdown that can lead to homelessness. This mediation can take place in school or another environment where the young person feels safe and comfortable.

Family mediation for young people aged over 16 years

Family mediation for this age group often takes place at or after the point of crisis, when family relationships are already breaking down and the young person is at the point of leaving or is already homeless.

Example: St Basils Family Mediation service for young people aged 16-21

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Supporting young people

Befriending and mentoring

The aim of befriending a young person is to provide a positive role model who will build a relationship with the young person, and contribute to improved outcomes for them, not just in times of crisis but also in their journey through adolescence and into adulthood. Through this relationship, the young person is provided with practical assistance and social support.

The difference between befriending and mentoring is that, with the latter, more emphasis is placed on goal setting and achievement.

Mentoring and befriending sessions can be provided in both school and community settings, wherever a young person feels most comfortable.

Example: Young Lives Foundation

Support groups for young people

Support groups for young people at risk of becoming homeless can be attached to local authority youth services, voluntary agencies, health services, or be associated with faith or other community groups. They can provide a safe place for young people to share their problems, and also to gain access to information and advice about homelessness and housing.

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When mediation is not appropriate

Mediation will not be appropriate to all young people in all situations. It would not be suitable when/where:

  • the young person has stated that they are suffering from violence or abuse in the family home, or there is reason to suspect that this might be the case
  • a young person has had to leave the family home due to over-crowding
  • there is no support or future planning underpinning the mediation - standalone mediation with no further support is unlikely to solve all of a family’s issues, and could result in the same problems resurfacing time and time again
  • there is no active engagement from the young person and their family. If they feel they have been coerced or forced into mediation, it is set up to fail

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Financial help and advice for families

Many young people are asked to leave the family home because of financial problems. Child benefit stops at the age of 16, or 20 if the child stays in approved education or training, and most young people who are not in education, employment or training are not entitled to claim benefits (although some exceptions apply).

See Gov.uk: Claim child benefit

Families receiving housing benefit or universal credit may also face a deduction in respect of children over the age of 18 still living at home. Understandably, tensions over financial hardship can lead to problems in the household.

Short-term help may be available to families in this situation, through discretionary payments or from a local homelessness prevention budget.

Advisers to young people and their families with social housing tenancies should make their clients aware that homes may be classed as under-occupied once any children have left, and that any housing benefit or universal credit may be reduced. See Shelter’s advice on the bedroom tax.

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Dealing with crisis - respite accommodation

Offering a young person a few nights respite accommodation can give them the opportunity for a break at a time of crisis, and can help to prevent a permanent family breakdown.

The use of respite care does not mean a young person cannot return to the family home - in fact, the aim and value of respite services for young people is to maintain them in their own home and help keep the family together.

For more information, see respite and short breaks for young people.

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Planning for the future

Mediation and respite may help to improve a young person’s relationships with their family,and with the wider community, but if the young person still cannot stay in or return to the family home, they and their families should be helped to make informed decisions about living apart and, if they need it, to have access to appropriate resources and skilled support to prevent a homelessness crisis and to facilitate a planned exit - see access to housing and support for further information.

Even after a child has left home, work can continue to be done to support a return home - leaving the family home does not have to be permanent. See returning to the family home.

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