The pilot phase of the Street Legal project has now come to an end, and we are delighted to be continuing and expanding the work in the coming 3 years with Shelter, to include the provision of information, advice and representation to families with children, in addition to providing these services to young people aged 16-25.

As I pass on the Project Coordinator baton to Parisa Shirazi, I’ve been reflecting on what we have learned over the last 3 years.

Prior to 2016 we had noticed that a number of the young people we were working with had significant issues in terms of their housing situation. At the start of the project we anticipated that the majority of the young people we would be working with would be trying to access local authority tenancies or in their first tenancies and perhaps needing legal advice and representation to maintain them. Whilst we have had clients in this situation, we quickly found that the majority of the young people being referred to us were care leavers. These young people had usually left or were about to leave the care system and were facing a precarious future, often already in or heading towards homeless accommodation. This, despite the fact the new legislation in the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 provided care leavers with additional rights designed to avoid this very scenario.

Scottish government statistics released in June reflect our experience that people with a care-experienced background are disproportionately represented in the homeless population in Scotland and over 90% of the young people that we have helped through the Street Legal project have been care experienced.

As a result of this experience, we have now gone on to secure funding from the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation for our new Care Leavers’ Law Service. The service will provide legal support, advice and representation for care experienced young people across Scotland. We anticipate that ensuring that the legal rights of care leavers with regards to accommodation will be a focus of this project.

The other major thing that we have learned from this project is that workshop-style training with support and advocacy workers can be really effective. Allowing participants to learn about the law and legal rights through practice-based questions and exercises proved to be a successful and popular approach and we have had excellent feedback about this training model, as well as plenty of referrals and enquiry phone calls from workers who have undertaken the training.

The expansion of the Street Legal project to include information, advice and representation to families with children has already been welcomed by agencies across the sector and there will no doubt be further learning for all involved as the project develops. We will begin taking referrals in early October. 

Further reading:

News story on homelessness amongst care-leavers in Scotland featuring a comment by Alison Reid from Clan Childlaw

Information about the Street Legal Project