An innovative housing scheme designed to support vulnerable young people at risk of homelessness has been launched in Essex.
Children’s charity Barnardo’s has joined forces with housing association The Theydon Trust to build a ‘Gap Home’, a purpose-built house for young people leaving the care system. The scheme includes access to consistent ‘wraparound’ support from local Barnardo’s services.
The scheme launched when the foundation stone was laid at the site of the future Gap Home in Epping, Essex, this week.
Present at the event was the Lord Lieutenant of Essex, Jennifer Tolhurst; the Chair of the Theydon Trust, John Batchelor along with Barnardo’s Assistant Director, Craig Horner Barnardo’s Assistant Director for Gap Homes, Elizabeth McShane.
The innovative scheme has been developed in response to the fact young people who have been in care have a 50/50 chance of becoming homeless. This is exacerbated by a lack of suitable accommodation for young people preparing to live independently.
Leaving care is a huge milestone in a young person’s life, with the average age being between 16-18 years old. Without suitable accommodation or a support network, it can be extremely challenging for care leavers to obtain employment, education or training.
Craig Horner, Assistant Director, Barnardo’s, said:
“We’re incredibly proud to be part of this innovative and exciting new scheme which will tackle the lack of suitable accommodation for care leavers.
“It can be very difficult for young people leaving care to live alone for the first time, especially when it comes to running a home on a limited budget. We have a strong track record in supporting vulnerable young people to develop the skills they need to succeed in reaching independence as adults. Offering purpose-built accommodation for care leavers, we will also provide practical and emotional support, for up to two years, for those who need it the most. We believe Gap Homes have the potential to transform the lives of care leavers across the UK giving them the fresh start they deserve.”
This opportunity is made possible due to an on-going partnership with the Theydon Trust, a Housing Association operating in the Epping Forest area. Since 2016 the Theydon Trust has been instrumental in supporting the development of the wider Gap Homes model, due to their innovation and expertise in utilising limited space for house building.
It is expected that building of the 1.5 story house in Epping will be completed by summer 2021. The Theydon Trust will then lease the home to Barnardo’s for the purposes of supporting a young person. The house is based in an established community amongst other Theydon Trust properties.
John Batchelor, Chair of the Theydon Trust, said:
“We’re delighted to start building the very first Gap Home in England. One of the attractive features of the properties is that they are very well insulated and therefore the cost of heating will be low.
“The Theydon Trust was set up in the 1930s to provide good quality housing for people in need. We are working with Barnardo’s to help young people aged 16 plus, as they move out of local authority care into their first home. Barnardo’s want to provide good quality housing for young people leaving care and were impressed by our approach to the new properties we were building.
Barnardo’s will be working in close collaboration with Essex County Council to identify young care leavers who will be offered their first tenancy in a Gap Home.
Barnardo’s involvement in the Gap Homes scheme was originally piloted in Scotland with the charity’s first Gap Home becoming available to care leavers in December 2019. Barnardo’s is now partnering with local authorities and industry partners across the UK to build a further 50 homes.