My Life – Kim Byrne

Kim Byrne describes her struggle to continue her education since leaving home aged 17

Six months ago, I moved to Sleaford Foyer, a support scheme for homeless 16 to 24-year-olds.

Since then I have worked hard to try and get the education and qualifi cations which will help me fi nd a job in the future. But although I want to learn, a strange law called the “16-hour rule” means I’m not allowed to study for more than 16 hours a week without affecting my claims for benefi ts, such as housing benefit and jobseekers allowance.

I need my benefi ts to survive and pay for my room. I’d love to go to college and gain the types of qualifi cations other people my age have, like A-Levels or NVQs, but the rule stops me from doing it.

I was on a performing arts course but when I left home I came down with depression so I had to quit my course. Recently, with the help of the staff at the foyer, I have started to get myself back on track and was thinking of going back to college to fi nish the course. But because of this rule, I can’t. It’s impossible – my chance of a life has been taken away because of my mental illness.

Last year, foyer residents from all over the country were invited to go to the House of Commons and speak to MPs about education opportunities open to homeless young people. I recognised a lot of the MPs there from the TV – it was really scary.

When it was my turn to speak I was very nervous, but I was determined to let them know how stupid the 16-hour rule was and how it was stopping me from ever getting a good job. They  seemed really shocked by what I had to say, and several agreed that it wasn’t right. Now I just hope they do something to change things. I don’t want to be unemployed and homeless all my life!

Kim Byrne is 18 and lives at Leicester Housing Association’s Sleaford Foyer

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