As we go into Autumn I am excited and overwhelmed that some of the long-term goals which young people, staff, Trustees and our supporters have wanted for AKT, included in our latest business plan, are now becoming reality.

1) BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT

At our recent Board meeting the Trustees agreed a 12-month pilot in a fourth region, in response to a geographical scoping of need completed by Birmingham University on our behalf. This will enable AKT to identify how to support local services in an area where LGBT young people are most vulnerable, and with the support AKT, develop their own response to the 1 in 4 young people at risk of homelessness who identify as Lesbian, gay, Bisexual or Trans. I hate to tease you, but I can only share the location of the pilot in early 2019, once we have completed more planning and partnership work.

2) SAFE HOMES TO INDEPENDENCE

I am very proud of the team’s introduction of the Host project, which refreshes our founding service to meet the changing needs of young people as we approach our 30th anniversary. Hosts comprise a great opportunity to provide a flexible response to need which matches the availability of people to provide that support; which addresses the issue we had in the North East when we sought to introduce Carers in 2016.  The response across our social media to the promotion of this project suggests we need to be ready for significant application.

Purple Door in London remains at full occupancy, suggesting the need for looking at expansion in the future. Following our review of the project earlier this year, watch out for our Purple Door Forward Plan, which we will share with you early in 2019.

3) DIGITAL SUPPORT SERVICES

The agile development which has occurred over the first 18 months of this programme has provided a learning journey to the organization in which we have fully engaged young people and external specialists. This has resulted in some significant diversification of our digital offer to make sure we are giving more instant support when needed – which our funders predicted and have welcomed. In particular, Live Chat and Your Toolkit – an online information hub (both available through our website). 

The diversification of our digital offer has increased access to the service and we are on target with our own and our funders’ performance targets. The programme is identifying some interesting trends, which are already influencing how we plan and deliver our wider service offer, e.g. the average age of service users is younger (ave. 18) than our face to face services, there is a higher proportion of women (equalling men) and there is a diverse geographical breakdown showing trends in need across the country which has mirrored our scoping report findings (see IMPACT report 2018).

4) YOUTH ENGAGEMENT

With over 70 young people already registered for our youth conference (we expect to reach 100); international charities partnering with us for the first time and significant plans for consultation and engagement with young people at the event, we are feeling the benefit of our recently appointed Youth Engagement Officer (Zoe) leading on this work programme. 

Our engagement with young people has crossed all areas of the organization, including:

      • Youth Strategy day – branding consultation;
      • Number 10 visit
      • Digital co-creation workshops
      • Activity workshops
      • Young writers’ group output
      • Web content production

The significant benefits of having a youth engagement programme are already evident through the positive feedback we are receiving at events, online and through our research / consultation with young people. Furthermore, peer organisations are increasingly promoting / recommending AKT and our work (e.g. social media, actively seeking partnerships / engagement and making referrals). The increase in both footfall into our services (especially in London) and young volunteers (e.g. young writers, students / others engaging in our shout-outs to take part in content creation) supports our view that AKT is seen by young people as an organisation to trust which offers and delivers the support they need, whilst being a fun space to engage with – all of which was reflected in their feedback at youth strategy day on branding in July. 

5) VOLUNTEERING

Early days and there is much for Kate to do in streamlining our volunteering programme and overcoming challenges, such as managing volunteer expectations and ensuring we resource the areas of volunteering we struggle to recruit to (i.e. non-service-based opportunities). However, our presence at Prides demonstrated that Kate is re-engaging and engaging new people in AKT across the country.  

The diversification of our digital service offer (e.g. Live Chat) and outreach work (in more informal settings) is opening up new opportunities and a need for a wider volunteer workforce. Myself and the leadership team are keen to bring back our celebratory event ‘the Alberts’ for our 30th Year (2019), introduced in 2008, this event recognises the contribution of our volunteers, partners and staff – as well as the achievements of the young people we help. We will be making a shout-out to our corporate partners to see if anyone would like to host an event in the north and south respectively next summer / autumn.

6) OUTREACH

Since introducing a more targeted approach to outreach (still some way to go here) we have seen the whole team work within a more diverse range of settings from nightclubs, national events and international conferences. This of course is providing a strong platform to raise awareness and income. However, this is also enabling us to reach a more diverse audience of young people and supporters. This is clearly evidenced by our presence on the club scene (resulting in service footfall) through to Patrick Gale’s literary event (attended strongly by women and with a majority audience of people new to AKT). A similar picture is emerging through our digital based outreach work with the introduction of influencers and new content produced with partners and young people.

The leadership team have been focusing their outreach on developing key national and international partnerships which are closely aligned to our business plan. More on this in my Winter update.

We are concentrating our public affairs activity on hosting debates during party conference season this month. This will offer AKT a captive audience in making two clear asks of the three main political parties, helping us to achieve our mission to prevent LGBT youth homelessness:

  • To support and encourage a shift to the mandatory monitoring of gender and sexual orientation by public / publicly commissioned homelessness services nationally; to ensure LGBT people do not remain partially invisible when mainstream providers deliver services, identify priority need or plan provision.
  • To recognise that the current focus of homelessness policy and investment on rough sleeping initiatives is extremely important. However, AKT believe if we are to provide a sustainable solution to addressing the issue of rising homelessness we need a complimentary focus on prevention and early action, such as demonstrated by our Purple Door emergency housing project and our digital support services, which reach young people just before or at the point of crisis. Prevention and early action:
      • Limits the social health impacts of homelessness / threat of homelessness on people’s lives 
      • Reduces the public health and welfare costs of medium to long term homelessness 

By securing sponsorship from partners UNUM and Cicero, I have been mindful to ensure that no funding from our core work has been used to support our campaigning activity.  I think this is an important ethical position to uphold for AKT. 

To find out more about our campaigning please read the full story on the home page of our website and TWEET this message and ask others to SHARE:

1 in 4 young people at risk of homelessness identify as LGBT. 77% experience rejection and abuse at home. @albertkennedyTr can help www.akt.org.uk

I hope to see you all at our Gala Dinner on 18th October; and if not see you for my Winter update in December.