In July 2022, nearly fifty professionals came to a literacy100 forum at City Lit College in London to discuss the significant literacy needs of adults affected by homelessness.
Those who attended represented a wide range of backgrounds, including the homelessness sector, education, reading charities, libraries, research, local government, and business. Throughout the day, we heard evidence to reinforce the view that literacy provision for vulnerable adults does not meet demand. Nor do available services respond universally to often complex personal histories and barriers to learning.
Delegates recognised that their depth of experience and range of expertise could be harnessed to design informed, achievable recommendations for change and good practice. These would be distilled into a report accompanied by a Charter of intent, their aim to promote accessible, effective literacy services for individuals with complex needs. Since then, working groups have been investigating existing models of provision across sectors, identify gaps and making proposals for new approaches.
Research by Thames Reach in 2010 and St Mungo’s in 2014 suggests that approximately 50% of people affected by homelessness have inadequate reading or writing skills, often both. A new research project being conducted across England by The Centre for Homelessness Impact will bring this figure up-to-date, identifying the current extent of literacy needs within the sector.
Our Charter will be launched later this year. Its endorsement by organisations in a position to make a practical difference will be given added weight if policy-makers at national and local levels agree to support its principles. The adults we are championing missed out on education the first time around and have consequently been disadvantaged in numerous ways. Their greater empowerment will interrupt cycles of disadvantage, opening up opportunities for employment and independent living, for better health, and for greater social and political participation. Not only the individual, but also the economy and wider society will surely benefit as a result.
Julia Olisa - Chair and Co-founder Literacy100