Youth Homelessness and the Role of the Educational Psychologist
Date: 8 February 2021
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Doctor of Educational, Child and Community Psychology
During 2018/19, in the UK, an estimated 110,000 young people (YP) approached their local authority because they were either experiencing, or at risk of, homelessness. Homelessness is associated with decreased life expectancy, for example, due to drug and alcohol misuse and suicide. This emphasises the importance of early intervention; ...
During 2018/19, in the UK, an estimated 110,000 young people (YP) approached their local authority because they were either experiencing, or at risk of, homelessness. Homelessness is associated with decreased life expectancy, for example, due to drug and alcohol misuse and suicide. This emphasises the importance of early intervention; if YP can be supported to exit homelessness and achieve positive outcomes, this could not only improve their quality of life, but potentially save their life. Since educational psychologists (EPs) now work with young adults, it is important to think beyond promoting inclusion in schools, towards promoting inclusion in the wider community through preparation for adulthood. Many educational psychology services are adopting a traded model of service delivery; this is a good opportunity for EPs to expand their role into the community. It could be argued that the job title ‘educational psychologist’ is restrictive, since it may imply that EPs only work within education. Exeter graduates, however, hold the extended title of educational, child and community psychologist; this thesis will focus on the community psychology role. I set out to explore YP’s perceptions around what enabled them to exit homelessness and achieve positive outcomes, complimented by support workers (SWs) perspectives. I also aimed to capture and promote the potential role and contribution of EPs within a youth homelessness organisation. Phase 1 involved semi structured interviews with six YP who had previously experienced homelessness and focus groups with SWs from a youth homelessness organisation. Phase 2 consisted of a focus group with EPs; discussion was based around vignettes developed using each of the YP’s interviews. Data was analysed using thematic analysis. YP discussed a range of factors that supported them to overcome homelessness, including positive, trusting relationships, particularly with their support workers. Being intrinsically motivated to engage in further education and/or employment was also key to their success. YP also described potential barriers to positive outcomes. Most YP reflected upon difficulties during their school years, and yet, had never met an EP to their knowledge. In line with YP’s views, SWs described person-centred support and positive relationships as the foundations for enabling positive outcomes, while aspects of the welfare system created barriers to positive outcomes. SWs discussed how continued professional development, educational psychology support and teamwork helps them to do the job well. The EP focus group highlighted the current and potential role of EPs both in schools and in the community, in relation to supporting YP experiencing, or at risk of homelessness. EPs highlighted that having more time to engage in preventative, systemic practice will be key in developing their role as community psychologists. It is hoped that this research will support other educational psychology services to enhance and promote their community psychology offer.
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