Housing

Councils are failing thousands of young people on the verge of homelessness

A council funding crisis could scupper the Homelessness Reduction Act

Youth homelessness

A new report by homelessness charity Centrepoint has found that 86,000 young people at risk of homelessness contacted their local council last year, but 58 per cent were turned away with no practical help.

The statistics, gleaned via Freedom Of Information requests, show that tens of thousands of young people were denied a proper assessment of their needs, and many more were offered inadequate assistance or advice.

Speaking to The Big Issue, Centrepoint’s research officer Hannah Webster, who conducted the investigation, said: “Only one third of young people who approached councils saying they were, or were at risk, of becoming homeless were give a formal assessment. Over half went for support and left with maybe a leaflet but nothing official.”

As the Homelessness Reduction Act comes into force, local councils have new legal responsibilities to assess anyone facing homelessness, before offering “meaningful assistance” and housing anyone who qualifies as “priority need”.

Centrepoint’s analysis of the FOI responses from local councils found:

  • 58 per cent of young people were turned away without any practical support
  • Only a third were given a documented housing assessment
  • Just 13 per cent were housed

The figures obtained by Centrepoint not only demonstrate the scale of youth homelessness but suggest more funding is urgently required if already cash-strapped councils are to meet their responsibilities to prevent a further rise in youth homelessness.

Paul Noblet, Centrepoint’s head of public affairs said: “The Homelessness Reduction Act is a step in the right direction but it is absolutely vital that central government provides adequate funding to allow councils to fulfil their new duties and carry out tens of thousands of additional assessments.”

The Big Issue’s founder Lord John Bird has responded to the new research: “Turning a young person homeless, through neglect, lack of support or by ignoring their plight is a life sentence.

“The young person, even if housed and supported later on, will often have gone through such mind and body changing trauma that’s often impossible to repair later.

“I urge the serious reading of this report from Centrepoint, who, for decades, have led on alerting us to the injuries handed out to young people who go through homelessness.

“Even after all these years since my own youth homelessness, I shudder at the thought of those times. We must insist that governments, local authorities and the public get behind the recommendations in this report and then keep it at the top of the social agenda. A young person made homeless on even one occasion is a disturbance for life.”

The government currently only publishes data on youth homelessness in relation to those assessed as meeting the increasingly stringent “priority need” threshold. However, by collating data from Local Authorities about how many young people are asking for help or at risk of homelessness, the Youth Homelessness Databank is increasingly important to document the true scale of youth homelessness in the UK.

“Public awareness is at the forefront of our mind,” said Webster, whose research helps update the Databank. “This information needs to be shared – that’s why we are collecting data beyond what the government publishes on youth homelessness.”

Download More Than A Number: The Scale of Youth Homeless report by Centrepoint here

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