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Lifelong Links reduces care leaver homelessness by 10%, study shows

Published: 24th July 2023

3 minute read

A new evaluation of Lifelong Links has found that it significantly reduces homelessness amongst care leavers. The study by the Policy Institute at King’s College London for the Centre for Homelessness Impact has found that that the Lifelong Links approach, which helps build family support networks for care leavers, reduces the risk of homelessness by 10%.

Lifelong Links is an innovative approach developed by Family Rights Group, in which a coordinator works with a child in care to identify people who are important to them, such as relatives, former foster carers or teachers. Adults who agree to do so are brought together with the child for a family group conference to produce a plan to support the child into adulthood, which becomes embedded in the child’s care plan.

Lifelong Links was developed by Family Rights Group, a charity, and began in 2017 as a three-year pilot in seven local authorities, funded by the Department for Education. It was extended to 12 local authorities in England and is also being trialled in Scotland. Currently 32 local authorities in Britain offer a Lifelong Links service to children in care.

Researchers analysed a dataset that combines the number of people in a local authority assessed as at risk of homelessness in a given year and young people aged under 21 who left care in each area. The aged cut-off was chosen as Lifelong Links had only operated for three years in the areas from which samples were taken.

Across multiple analyses, researchers found a 10% reduction in the risk of a young care leaver being assessed as at risk of homelessness in their most robust model. The study is one of five impact evaluations of interventions that seek to reduce homelessness among young people leaving care carried out by King’s Policy Institute and the Centre for Homelessness Impact, which were funded by the UK Cabinet Office’s Evaluation Accelerator Fund.

The study’s final report can be found here.
More information about Lifelong Links can be found here.

Michael Sanders, Professor of Public Policy at King’s College London and the leader author, said:

“Previous research has shown that young people leaving care are more likely to experience adverse outcomes than their peers, with as many as a third of people experiencing homelessness having some care experience, and some 14% of care leavers sleeping rough.

Our new study finds that Lifelong Links, an intervention part-funded by the Department for Education and led by Family Rights Group, could be an important tool in preventing homelessness among young care leavers, reducing their risk by 10% according to our analysis.”

Cathy Ashley, Chief Executive of Family Rights Group said:

“This groundbreaking research demonstrates that Lifelong Links can successfully reduce the chances of a young person becoming homeless. It adds to a body of evidence that Lifelong Links can be transformative for children and young people in care, improving their mental health, stability and sense of identity.

Young people leaving care are often alone and isolated, as their professional support network falls away. Unsurprisingly it also means they are more at risk of homelessness. Lifelong Links is designed to turn that around, so every child has meaningful relationships that they can depend upon in child and adulthood. That’s why Family Rights Group’s ambition is that Lifelong Links becomes a right for every child in care and care leaver.”

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