Almost one in ten people have experienced homelessness in England

By agency reporter
13 Dec 2013

Nine per cent of adults in England have experienced homelessness at some point in their life, new research published on 13 December 2013 has revealed.

The findings are from state-of-the nation report, The Homelessness Monitor: England – an independent study published annually by Crisis and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) that analyses the impact on homelessness of economic and policy developments.

England has the highest rate of homelessness of all the UK countries with nine per cent of adults saying they have been homeless and 2.2 per cent saying this happened in the last five years, new analysis for the study found. Young adults, people of black or mixed ethnicities and those from deprived areas were more likely to have been homeless.

Homelessness has risen for three consecutive years. The research identifies a housing ‘pressure cooker’, particularly in London and the South East. A lack of supply and rising housing costs, cuts to benefits and to services are combining to leave people already struggling to keep their heads above water at increased risk of homelessness. Those already homeless are being left even further away from help.

The shortage and high cost of housing combined with the government’s policies – particularly reforms and cuts to housing benefit – mean homelessness is predicted to continue to rise despite signs of a recovering economy.

Leslie Morphy, Chief Executive of Crisis, commented: “We keep hearing that the economy is on the mend. Yet as we watch our GDP figures slowly rise, cuts to housing benefit and woefully inadequate house building will keep pushing up homelessness. Shamefully, it is the poorest and most vulnerable that are bearing the brunt.

“We need the government to address the chronic lack of affordable housing, take real steps to improve the private rented sector and to urgently consider the impact its cuts to housing benefit are having, particularly in the capital.”

Julia Unwin, Chief Executive of JRF, added: “Homelessness is the tragic consequence of failures in our housing system and carries enormous cost for both the people facing destitution and society as a whole. To avoid these figures going in the wrong direction, we need to address the underlying causes of homelessness urgently. That means building the affordable homes this country desperately needs and providing a proper safety net for when people are unfortunate enough to fall on hard times.”

The research found that:

• Visible forms of homelessness are up, with rough sleeping rising this year by six per cent in England and 13 per cent in London, pushing the two year increase in the capital to over 60 per cent. After falling sharply for six years, the number of statutory homelessness acceptances across England has risen substantially by 34 per cent since 2009/10.

• The private rented sector is being relied on to meet housing demand yet is failing in too many instances – sharply rising numbers are being made homeless across the country because tenancies are ending but they cannot find or afford an alternative. This is now the leading cause of statutory homelessness in London (316 per cent increase in homelessness due to this in the capital between 2009/10 – 2012/13).

• There is an increase of 10 per cent in the number of people housed in temporary accommodation during 2012/13 with numbers in bed and breakfasts rising even faster (14 per cent). In addition there has been a doubling since 2010 in the number of people being placed in temporary accommodation outside their local area. Such trends are overwhelmingly concentrated in London.

• The continuing shortfall in the building of new houses relative to new household formation is a major contributor to homelessness and other acute housing need, particularly in the more pressured housing markets in London and the South East. We would need to double the number of houses built in 2012/13 just to keep pace with new household formation.

• Changes and cuts to the welfare system are critical to overall levels of homelessness.

Two reforms are presenting particular difficulties: The caps in housing benefit are making it more difficult for people to find somewhere to rent from a private landlord, particularly in high cost areas of London. The numbers of people claiming in Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea has reduced by a quarter since March 2011.

Also, the Shared Accommodation Rate, as now applied to single people aged up to 35, is severely reducing access to private rented housing. There has been a 14 per cent reduction in the numbers of young private tenants in receipt of this benefit since the changes were introduced.

Further welfare reforms introduced during 2013 are already having an impact. First, 'spare room subsidy limits' (also known as the 'bedroom tax') are leading to a sharp rise in social sector arrears, particularly in the Midlands and the North.

Second, the overall benefit cap for out-of-work households is impacting severely on larger families in London and other higher rent areas. Of particular concern is its effect on homeless families who have temporarily secured private rented accommodation.

Third, the localisation of the Social Fund has resulted in a weakening in the support available to individuals and families in the crisis situations that can lead to homelessness and a growing resort to food banks.

Other findings are that:

• Frontline services for homeless and vulnerable people at local level continue to be reduced, with the prospect of more cuts to come. There has also been a ratcheting up of the use of sanctions on benefit claimants, which was of greatest concern to single and youth homelessness service providers.

• Some 'hidden' forms of homelessness – including concealed, sharing and overcrowded households – are also rising. Overcrowding has reached five per cent across England rising to 12 per cent in London and 16 – 25 per cent in certain London boroughs.

The homelessness monitor is a five year study (2011-2015), funded by Crisis and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation carried out by leading experts from Heriot-Watt University, the University of York and University of New South Wales.

It provides an independent analysis of the impact on homelessness of recent economic and policy developments in the UK. The key areas of interest are the impact on homelessness and housing of the post-2007 economic recession and housing market downturn; welfare changes and public expenditure cutbacks being pursued by the UK Coalition Government elected in 2010; other relevant policies of both the UK Government and the devolved governments and administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Crisis helps people rebuild their lives through housing, health, education and employment services. It works with thousands of homeless people across the UK and has ambitious plans to work with many more.

Crisis works with homeless people in nine centres in eight regions across the UK. Last year it worked with over 6,000 people, awarded 2,108 qualifications, supported 376 people into work, and found homes for a further 3,000.

JRF is a funder of research for social change in the UK. It aims to reduce poverty and strengthen communities for all generations.

* Crisis: http://www.crisis.org.uk/

* Joseph Rowntree Foundation: http://www.jrf.org.uk/

* Homelessness Monitor, full research (*.PDF Adobe Acrobat document): http://www.crisis.org.uk/data/files/admin_uploads/research/HomelessnessM...

* Executive summary of Homelessness Monitor (*.PDF Adobe Acrobat document): http://www.crisis.org.uk/data/files/admin_uploads/research/HomelessnessM...

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