Councils support more homeless young people

The proportion of young people in housing crisis supported by councils rose last year but homelessness cases that were prevented remained low, according to analysis by youth homelessness charity Centrepoint.

Centrepoint has warned the coronavirus pandemic could increase homelessness figures. Picture: Centrepoint
Centrepoint has warned the coronavirus pandemic could increase homelessness figures. Picture: Centrepoint

Research undertaken for Centrepoint’s Youth Homelessness Databank found that two-thirds of the 90,000 young people in England to approach their local authority for support in 2018/19 received it – up from 48 per cent the previous year. In 2016/17, the figure was 42 per cent.

However, the data shows that just 35 per cent of young people received a “positive outcome”, where homelessness or the risk of becoming homeless was resolved by preventing it or alternative accommodation was found, the same figure as in 2017/18.

In addition, 57 per cent of youth homelessness cases were not successfully prevented or dealt with in England.

This is the first databank report since the Homelessness Reduction Act came into effect last year. This new law places an obligation on all councils to provide support to prevent and relieve homelessness, such as providing information and advice or developing a personalised housing plan.

Prior to the act, young people in priority need would have received a main duty assessment straight away. Now they must first undergo the relief duty process, where they are required to lead their own housing search for 56 days.

Centrepoint says the new provisions create added difficulty and delay for young people in crisis – such as those fleeing domestic abuse, experiencing mental health problems or about to give birth – while some councils are struggling to discharge their duties due to lack of resources.  

The research, gathered through a Freedom of Information request to all local authorities in the UK, also suggests the number of homeless young people is going up.

The charity estimates that 110,000 young people in the UK were homeless or at risk of homelessness, in 2018/19, up from 103,000 the previous year.  

It fears this will be further exacerbated by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on already stretched council services – Centrepoint’s helpline has already seen calls from young people who have become homeless as a direct result of the crisis.

Centrepoint chief executive Seyi Obakin said in addition to the common causes of youth homelessness, the charity is already coming across cases of young people being evicted from accommodation tied to their work or as a result of people they live with wishing to self-isolate.

“This research shows how some local authorities were already struggling to find the resources to help those young people approaching them because they were facing homelessness,” he said.

“In the middle of an unprecedented pandemic, we must not get into a situation where housing offices are closing their doors and no alternative provision is in place to help those needing their support.

“The government is already stepping up support for homeless young people but they need to go further and ensure every local authority continues to provide support and by ensuring that charities and councils have enough funding carry out their responsibilities.” 

Last week, Centrepoint led a national coalition of homelessness charities in signing a letter calling on the government to provide clearer guidance for local authorities, and to make sure emergency funding is available to enable those who are homeless or living in homeless hostel accommodation to effectively self-isolate.

Last month, the government announced £3.2m emergency funding to help people sleeping rough to self-isolate.

Meanwhile, Housing charity Crisis has launched an emergency grants programme offering up to £50,000 for local groups who are financially affected by additional demands on their resources due to coronavirus. 

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