A portrait of Radio 1’s Dean McCullough directly facing the camera in front of a green brick wall

Radio 1’s Dean McCullough is announced as Centrepoint’s new Prevention Ambassador

Centrepoint has launched a prevention strategy aimed at identifying and supporting school age pupils in England who could be at risk of homelessness in the future. 

Supporting the launch was Radio 1 DJ Dean McCullough, who has opened up for the first time about his own experiences of homelessness – once as a teenager after his parents’ separation which left him and his mother homeless for a period of time, and again as he followed his dreams of moving down to London to pursue a career in musical theatre. 

To mark the launch, Dean visited Manchester Enterprise Academy (MEA) in Wythenshawe – one of the schools taking part in the charity’s prevention programme.

Dean had the chance to meet staff, pupils and Centrepoint’s Prevention team, who have been working in the school for nearly a year.

Reflecting on the visit and why he is supporting the launch of Centrepoint’s prevention work, Dean said: “I was really keen to get involved with Centrepoint’s work because it seems like it’s something that’s getting worse and they’re trying to change that. That’s what’s so great about their Prevention Strategy because it’s getting in early and giving people the tools they need to avoid homelessness all together hopefully.  

“It was fantastic to visit the Academy and understand more about the work they’re doing with Centrepoint to support students who may be at risk of homelessness in the future. I had my own experience in high school as well as later in life, so being a part of this launch has brought back memories about that time. But I hope that me speaking out about it shows that while experiencing homelessness is huge and difficult, it doesn’t have to define you.”

Dean McCullough stands by a display of work and chats with staff at Manchester Enterprise Academy

MEA partners with a number of organisations to ensure that its pupils and their families have the best possible opportunities and those facing hardship are properly supported. One such partnership is with Centrepoint. 

To offer wraparound support, Centrepoint has joined forces with local organisations to deliver a series of tailored interventions from family mediation, health support and homelessness education, all of which are based on its psychologically informed approach to support. Through the schools’ work with the charity, a number of pupils have been identified in need of tailored support. 

Janine Hope, Vice Principal and Safeguarding Lead at Manchester Enterprise Academy, said: “Our aim at Manchester Enterprise Academy is to equip every single student who walks through our halls with the tools and confidence they need to thrive in the future. This isn’t always a linear journey, especially for young people in today’s society where poverty is an increasing issue, but we are committed to ensuring a Fantastic Future for All.

“Working with Centrepoint has allowed us to support the students whose behaviours are not overt including those who may have masked their home situations, fears and thoughts. The more proactive we can be will enable our students to access the support they need and then remain engaged in education and therefore achieve their full potential by the end of Year 11.

“The tailored support students have received from Centrepoint and their partner organisations has been fantastic, and having an adult who isn’t their teacher to confide in and listen to them has made a significant impact already. One of the impacts has been that students who have been supported by Centrepoint have noted their increased resilience and confidence which will go a long way in helping them achieve better outcomes, which is all we want as teachers, mentors and a school.”

Dean McCullough sits with pupils at Manchester Enterprise Academy

Stephen Elder, Centrepoint’s National Prevention Manager, added: “If we want to end youth homelessness then we need to prevent it happening in the first place. We need to support children to thrive so that they can achieve everything they can. 

“Getting into schools and identifying children who may be at risk of homelessness in the future and building a range of wellbeing support has been proven to work in Australia and is currently being undertaken in Wales and Scotland, so it’s vital that we continue to adopt this approach in England as soon as possible. 

“Centrepoint cannot do this alone. Our pilots in Manchester and London are just the first steps towards a fully realised strategy that charities and councils across England will be able tap into and use to help address increasing levels of youth homelessness everywhere.” 

Centrepoint is piloting early intervention work with children in English schools. This work, known as ‘Upstream England’ follows in the footsteps of Llamau’s ‘Upstream Cymru’ and uses the Upstream survey that identifies key risks of homelessness. It was created by Llamau and Cardiff University, work which was itself modelled on the successful approach of the Australian Geelong Project.

The project involves surveying students to identify a range of potential risk factors including wellbeing concerns, previous family homelessness, unstable living situations, happiness where people currently live, risks around educational attainment and resilience. While many factors will be clear, the survey is also designed to help spot young people who may not be identified by either the school or social services as needing support.

The Prevention Programme has been partially funded by Coventry Building Society, as part of a three year multi-million pound partnership with Centrepoint.