NEW figures published in the government’s annual Statutory Homelessness in England report show a steep rise in numbers of young people leaving care aged 18-20 who experience homelessness or the threat of homelessness.
The government’s own research shows that during the financial year 2022/23:
- The number of care leavers aged 18 – 20 facing homelessness has increased by at least 33 per cent since 2018. The figure for 2018-19 was 2,790 compared to 3,710 for 2022/23.
- That means the number of care leavers aged 18 – 20 facing homelessness has risen more than three times as fast as the overall number of households facing homelessness, which rose by 10.7 per cent over the same period.
- The number of care leavers aged 18-20 facing homelessness has increased by over nine per cent in the last year – up from 3, 390 in 2021/22.
- There were 2,270 care leavers aged 18 – 20 presenting as homeless, and a further 1,440 as threatened with homelessness.
- This means that most care leavers (61.2 per cent) aged 18 – 20 were already homeless by the time they received support from their local authority.
- 10.7 per cent of all care leavers aged 18 to 20 in England presented as homeless or threatened with homelessness. That is up significantly from 8.9 per cent in 2018/19.
- 19 per cent of care leavers aged 18 – 20 presenting as homeless or threatened with homelessness were in the North West of England, 15 per cent were in the South West, and 13 per cent were in the South East.
From its work with care-experienced young people, Become, the national charity for children in care and care leavers, says that this is just the tip of the iceberg. Beyond these statistics are many more who are ‘hidden homeless’, sofa surfing or rough sleeping, who may be unaware of their rights and entitlements and have not been in touch with their local authority for support.
Katharine Sacks-Jones, CEO of Become, says: “This data is depressing but sadly not surprising. Each year, thousands of 18-year-olds face a care cliff where important support and relationships disappear and they are expected to leave care and become independent overnight, often well before they feel ready. Being pushed into adulthood without the right support in place puts young people at risk. Trying to access safe and suitable housing, manage bills and the cost-of-living crisis, whilst also continuing their education or starting work without a safety net to fall back on is a huge struggle.
“It’s a scandal that our care system is leaving young people at risk of homelessness, but this can be fixed. We want to see an end to the care cliff so that all young people have a positive start to adulthood and make the move into independence when the time is right for them.”
Become is calling on the government to #EndTheCareCliff so that no young person needs to leave care before they’re ready. That means:
- Enabling young people to stay in their homes or connected to support by fully funding and making the Staying Put and Staying Close schemes an opt out legal entitlement for all care-experienced young people up to 25
- Providing proper housing support, including the introduction of consistent guarantor and tenancy deposit schemes to remove barriers for care leavers taking up private-rented tenancies.
Become is also calling on the government to amend homelessness legislation to:
- extend automatic ‘priority need’ to all care leavers up to the age of 25, regardless of vulnerability;
- exempt care leavers, up to the age of 25, from homelessness intentionality rules so they do not miss out on support into long-term accommodation
- require local authorities to remove the local area connection test for all care leavers up to the age of 25
Statistics are also provided in the latest release for care leavers aged 21 and over. A total of 4,200 care leavers aged 21+ across England were assessed as homeless or threatened with homelessness during 2022-23. Due to a lack of publicly available data, it is not possible to calculate the percentage of care leavers aged 21 and over that this represents.
* Statutory homelessness in England: financial year 2022-23 is available here.
* Source: Become