Youth panel

Giving young people a voice on housing issues

Nine young people living in homes owned or managed by Sovereign Housing Association have started a new forum so that they can have their say on the future of housing.

The new participants – all aged between 19 and 25 years old who come from counties across the south west including Devon, Dorset, Hampshire, Gloucestershire and the Isle of Wight – held their first online meeting recently.

The group - which includes young parents, and members who have experienced homelessness first hand - discussed topics like community projects, unemployment, access to housing, charitable funding and opportunities for the future.

The panel will work with Sovereign’s Resident Board Partnership and Executive Board to ensure that the organisation’s future plans fully encompass the views of young people.

Ebony, 25, from Devon, one of the new members, said: “I liked that it brought us together. Getting to know people from different backgrounds and how they got through difficult times is fascinating. You never know if someone is going through the same experience as you, but as a panel we’ll come across all different experiences. This forum gives us confidence to share and to voice the way we feel, as well as being able to support each other.

Reanna, 24, from Oxfordshire is taking part as she is keen to kickstart community action in her area. She said: “I’ve already found out about local organisations and local volunteering opportunities in my area, that would have taken me ages to come across without the panel. I’m want to expand my knowledge on what’s going on in my local community and can’t wait to get started on the training being offered by the Forum.”

Facilitated by the Creative Youth Network - an organisation designed to encourage young people to grow in confidence and advocacy skills - the group will continue to meet monthly online, with members gaining an overview of housing services, community organising, getting involved in an accredited volunteering scheme and more.

Sarah Fordham, communities manager for Sovereign, said: “We’ve been providing homes across the south of England for thirty years - and we’ll be around for at least thirty years to come. That’s why it’s essential that we invest in our young residents, empowering them to make positive choices about their neighbourhoods and communities.

“The links between mental health and housing are long-established. If your home is not a place that you feel safe and comfortable, if you feel that you have no control over your future living arrangements, then mental health problems will clearly deteriorate.

“With recent reports saying 83% of young people have found their mental health has worsened during lockdown, we are keen to do everything we can to ease housing as a source of stress and anxiety.”

Sovereign has invested more than £50,000 in starting the panel, and members come from across the organisation’s geography, including Devon, Dorset, Hampshire, Oxfordshire, Bristol, Gloucestershire, and the Isle of Wight.

Ellen Wilson, participation leader for the Creative Youth Network, added: “We are always keen to hear from organisations who want to work with young people with a view on housing, as well as from other Sovereign residents aged 18 to 25 who would like to share their opinions and influence change.”

 To find out more about the panel contact Ellen Wilson.