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Almost 130,000 young people seeking help for homelessness, research finds

New research finds youth homelessness has increased for the sixth year in a row, as well as “alarming” gaps in the outcomes between urban and rural authorities.

24/02/23

Almost 130,000 young people seeking help for homelessness, research finds

A new report has estimated that 129,000 young people approached their local authority seeking help with homelessness.

Centrepoint, the youth homelessness charity behind the report says the figures reveal a ‘devastating increase’ in the number of young people seeking support because they were homeless or at risk, but that timely and effective support from councils and their partners can help the young person to find a stable home and support them.

The charity used its databank to monitor the number of young people presenting to their local authority as homeless or at risk of homelessness across the United Kingdom finding that, for the sixth year in a row, the number of young people who asked for help has increased.

While the figures for Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have been going down for the last two years, an increasing number of homeless young people were recorded in England. England currently presents the highest youth homelessness rate among the four nations with around 1 in 53 people aged 16-24 homeless or at risk of homelessness.

Almost a third of the young people who approached their local authority in England were not assessed for eligibility, despite the government-published Code of Guidance that sets out expectations for local councils in implementing the Homelessness Reduction Act (HRA 2017).

Since the HRA has been in force, the proportion of young people receiving an assessment appears to have fallen significantly over time, from 79% in 2018/19 to 68% in 2021/2022.

Furthermore, in England only 38% of those who presented to their council had a so-called ‘positive outcome’, meaning their homelessness was successfully prevented or relieved, or they were housed under the main housing duty.

“This percentage has not substantially changed since the HRA has been implemented, suggesting the HRA process is failing to successfully address the housing needs of six in ten young people who present as homeless or at risk,” the report said.

Centrepoint says the numbers show “an alarming situation developing” between urban and rural authorities. For local authorities in rural areas, a significant gap in assessment rates and positive outcomes was noted, despite them receiving, on average, only half of the number of presentations from homeless young people compared to urban local authorities.

Family breakdowns remained the main cause, with 46% of the young people who were homeless or at risk of homelessness because their family were no longer willing or able to accommodate them.

The data also shows an increasing proportion of young people becoming homeless or at risk due to domestic violence (11%), on the rise since the pandemic.

“This is especially concerning for young women, who are five times more likely to be homeless or at risk than young men due to domestic abuse,” the report said.

Data from Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales was collected centrally, however in England the data was obtained through Freedom of Information requests to each authority.

“The Youth Homelessness Databank highlights once more how important it is to have robust data to understand the scale and nature of youth homelessness.

“At present, in England, the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) does not publish age breakdowns for all stages of the HRA process, publishing data only for those accepted as being owed a prevention or relief duty.

“This means that the government is unable to properly examine the scale and nature of youth homelessness and how these trends vary across the country, missing information on thousands of young people who are approaching their local authority for assistance.”

Alessandro Nicoletti, Senior Policy, Research and Databank Officer at Centrepoint, says this lack of data means the government is “blind to the scale of the demand before young people reach the assessment stage”.

“In order to end youth homelessness for good, we need a comprehensive picture of the issue, and the current demand for services. Unfortunately, right now government statistics do not cover this. H-CLIC – the government’s data tracking tool for homelessness statistics – does not incorporate the number of presentations, reporting only the numbers of assessments and homelessness duties given in the journey of the Homelessness Reduction Act.”

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