ON THE GROUND: Safe in the City

Scheme Provides career training, family counselling, personal development and job placements to teenagers who live in deprived areas of London

Funding Social Regeneration Budget funding of £6 million over six years.

Safe in the City aims to match-fund another £6 million during that time through charitable trusts, statutory and local authority funding

Objective To prevent homelessness later on by intervening in the lives of teenagers

"We don't work with homeless people, we work with people who we think have a high chance of becoming homeless in later life,

explains Nicola Bacon, Safe in the City's director.

The project was set up in 1998 by the Peabody Trust and Centrepoint.

Both organisations had noticed that similar factors were recurring early in the life experiences of homeless people - factors such as family conflict and chronic poverty. They also noticed that homeless people tended to be concentrated in certain geographic areas. So they came up with the idea of intervening early in the lives of young adults, while they were still living at home, in order to prevent them ending up on the streets five or 10 years on.

The charities decided there were five key risk areas: exclusion or risk of exclusion; experience of severe family conflict; moving home frequently; and living in long-term poverty.

Teenagers who meet two or more of these criteria are offered a package of intervention that can include the following: how to open a bank account; how to improve self-esteem; interview skills; CV preparation; family mediation; and IT skills.

Safe in the City co-ordinates existing agencies, designing a personalised package of support based on the teenager's needs. It encourages multi-agency working, because, Bacon explains, "there is masses of good stuff out there, but it doesn't join up.

"Getting teenagers to sort out a package of help themselves doesn't work. You have to do it for them.

Each teenager gets help for as long as they feel they need it - usually for no longer than two years.

The scheme is being piloted in the poorest parts of London first, but Bacon hopes that it will expand. Around 800 teenagers will be helped this year. The number is low because personalised services are expensive, she says.

The scheme is aimed at those in great need but who are not considered urgent enough cases to get social work support.

"We target those who just fall short, who may experience some abuse but not quite serious enough to trigger a major intervention,

says Bacon.

"If you don't intervene, these kids become detached. We were set up to prevent homelessness but, in fact, we prevent a whole range of social exclusion problems."

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