What is a Youth Foyer?
The Foyer concept has developed over the last half century as an innovative response to high levels of youth unemployment and youth homelessness. It first developed in France after World War II and by the late 1990s, more than 470 different French Foyer services were supporting 300,000 young people at risk of, or experiencing, homelessness to secure work.
Foyers were launched in the UK in 1992 with the establishment of the Foyer Federation and now there are over 100 Foyers operating in the UK, supporting around 10,000 young people. The movement has since spread internationally with Foyers established in Australia, Ireland, the USA, Netherlands and Germany.
Youth Foyers integrate housing, education, training, employment support, health and well-being and personal development for young people, particularly those who cannot live at home. They provide a transition to independence particularly for those young people who are struggling to make the journey to adulthood. They tackle the causes of a young person’s housing need, whether it is family breakdown, disengagement from learning or lack of access to training or employment, providing holistic support enabling young people to thrive as they move to independence.
Many services for young people view those young people through the lens of their disadvantage. They see them as ‘problems’ to be solved or ‘victims’ in need of charity. Foyers adopt an ‘asset’ or ‘strengths’ based approach to the development and support of young people. They view them as possibilities in need of investment and work in partnership with each young person to enable them to release their talent and potential.
The Foyer approach is underpinned by the notion of a ‘something for something’ deal – a contractual relationship between the young person and the Foyer. This places a clear responsibility on the young person to engage with what the Foyer has to offer but, at the same time, expects the Foyer to tailor their offer so that each young person unlocks their talent and potential. Each young person thereby builds the resources they need to facilitate their sustained life-long participation in their work and their community.
While the majority of young people have opportunities that enable them to reach their full potential, a number face significant challenges. Over ten per cent of Australians aged 15-19 years are unemployed and over 10,000 are experiencing homelessness on any given night. Over 50 percent experiencing homelessness are not involved in education or employment.
Young people experience homelessness for a variety of reasons including leaving care and exiting the youth justice system and also because of issues such as family conflict and breakdown, family violence, personal and/or familial mental health issues and personal and/or familial drug and/or alcohol use. Without intervention, young people who become homeless are at risk of cycling in and out of the homelessness service system. They risk long term homelessness and unemployment and becoming high users of the mental health, drug and alcohol and criminal justice systems, at very significant cost to themselves, our governments and the wider community.
Young people who complete educational qualifications are much more likely to have the capacity to sustain ongoing engagement with the labour market. This is critical to maintaining housing and economic independence. Recent data suggests that young Australians who complete Year 12 have better full-time employment rates, lower incidence of unemployment, higher wages and higher-status jobs than those who don’t. Further, early school leavers experience social exclusion at three times the rate of those who have completed Year 12.
While there are programs in both the education and homelessness sectors that seek to support disadvantaged young people with their education or their accommodation across Australia, there are almost no fully integrated service models focused on education and employment outcomes. Stable housing in individual, self-contained units, allows young people to develop critical skills for independent living, while still offering a supported, congregate living environment. For young people who are unable to rely on family support in this critical developmental stage, this model provides emotional support and guidance and the opportunity to build foundational social skills.
What is the Australian Foyer Foundation?
Transforming opportunities for young people
The Foyer movement in the UK was catapulted by the formation of the Foyer Federation. Founded in the early 1990s by Shelter UK and Diageo, the Foyer Federation today is a community membership based organisation that develops innovative, transformational programmes and campaigns across the United Kingdom. It pilots, tests and replicates these programs within and beyond its network of members and uses the learning to advocate for innovative and responsive Government policies and programmes for young people.
The Foyer Foundation aims to do the same thing in Australia. It is a Company Limited by Guarantee with DGR status. It has a Board of eminent individuals who are involved in community organisations across Australia that work to resolve youth homelessness and youth unemployment.
The Foyer Foundation exists in Australia to:
- support local charities and community organisations that are planning to build and operate a Youth Foyer, including building awareness of what constitutes best practice design of both the built form and the program model;
- support those local charities and community organisations who want build and operate a Youth Foyer in raising the capital and the recurrent funding required – through external private sector fundraising and engagement with State, Territory and Federal Governments;
- support ongoing learning of what works within the Australian Youth Foyer network via conferences and networks of practice;
- implement a nationally recognised quality assurance system for Youth Foyers;
- enable the young people of Australia to create a radically different conversation about the world of work and how they transition to work; and
- share good practice, intellectual property and the promotion of Foyers generally via an important partnership with the UK Foyer Federation. The Foyer Federation is currently contracted to the Foyer Foundation to support the development of a Quality Assurance Framework for Australian Foyers, drawing on its extensive track record in accreditations. This project draws on some innovative work currently being carried out by the Foyer Federation to develop an outcomes framework that is supported by a robust international evidence base.