Educational problems rife among homeless
Many of Cork's homeless suffer educational disadvantages with low levels of literacy, numeracy and IT literacy common and 30 per cent having never used a computer. This is according to a recent report undertaken by Cork Simon Community which was conducted among 91 people using Cork Simon services over a four week period this summer.
The report highlighted that rates of early school leaving are also more widespread among younger people with 75 per cent of 18-26 year olds surveyed leaving the education system without a Leaving Certificate.
Launched this week by the Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr. John Buttimer, the 'Working It Out' report found that barriers facing people who are homeless include long-term unemployment, poor health, early school leaving and low confidence in looking for and returning to work.
The report also revealed that 92 per cent of those surveyed are long term unemployed and that 63 per cent believe their physical or mental health would make working difficult. 65 per cent believe people would not employ someone who is or has been homeless. 59 per cent of those unemployed do not feel confident looking for or returning to work.
The report highlights a pattern of deep disadvantage from an early age with many having left school before the age of 14 and many still suffer with low levels of literacy, numeracy and IT literacy. It also found that many have few qualifications and limited work experience and most say they lack the confidence to look for and return to work and most are worried about prejudice from employers because they have experienced homelessness.
"This combination of educational disadvantage, unmet training needs, long term unemployment, poor health and low levels of confidence all serve to hinder access to work opportunities for people who are homeless. They indicate troubled lives from a young age, social isolation and disadvantage. Many barriers influence and compound one another, such as the affects of long-term unemployment on confidence and the influence of early school leaving on literacy levels, qualifications and work frequency, " said Dermot Kavanagh, CEO of Cork Simon.
The report finds particular groups to be more severely affected by certain barriers with women appearing more susceptible to ill-health and men more susceptible to addiction. Women report lower confidence rates and less work experience while a third of men indicate the likely need for re-skilling because of their previous employment in construction-related work. Despite these challenges the 'Working It Out' report reveals that people want to improve their circumstances with 49 per cent of unemployed respondents believe they need new skills to return to work while 59 per cent of those indicating low literacy would like to improve their reading and writing. 20 per cent of all respondents are currently participating in, or have in the past 12 months participated in training.
"For many people experiencing homelessness, it is their first time aiming for a certificate of any kind of education. It's a significant achievement when people are awarded a certificate given poor mental health and drug and alcohol dependency and the challenges they pose in committing to a course and concentrating on course work and study, " said Cllr. Lorraine Kingston, a VEC Tutor who works with students in The Foyer and Cork Simon.
According to Dermot Kavanagh, CEO of Cork Simon, 23 job positions were secured and 102 certificates have been achieved over the last 12 months through Cork Simon's Employment and Training Programme and the report found that 67 per cent of respondents in high support housing had taken part in training and 30 per cent of those in Cork Simon high support houses and flats are currently receiving or previously received literary support.
Cork Simon Week continues until Sunday 7 October culminating in the 40th anniversary gala concert in City Hall on Saturday 6 October where Cork soloist Mary Hegarty will lead over 100 musicians and singers in a musical extravaganza hosted by George Hook. Tickets for the concert are available from Cork Simon and Pro Musica.