Councils struggle to discharge new homelessness duties

13 Nov 18

Help offered by councils to young homeless people is ineffective half the time because of inadequate funding, analysis by the Centrepoint charity has revealed.

Last year 103,000 young people who were homeless or at risk of becoming homeless sought help from their council but only 48% received support to prevent or relieve their homelessness, the study found.

Centrepoint’s analysis suggests that more than half of councils do not have enough money to carry out the extra assessments, prevention and relief work required of them by the Homelessness Reduction Act.

Councils have been given more than £20m in ‘new burdens funding’ each year for three years to help them discharge their duties under the act.

But the charity estimated that councils need 192% more funding to carry out their duties – a shortfall of up to £10m in the first year.

Under the act, which came into force in April this year, councils in England are required to assess and provide a written decision and personalised housing plan for each individual that approaches them for help.

Centrepoint chief executive Seyi Obakin said: “The act is a big step in the right direction, but our analysis suggests the funding provided comes nowhere near what is required for councils to fulfil their new duties.

“The government has been increasingly vocal on the issue of homelessness but without extra funding for councils to meet their new obligations they are risking setting councils up to fail.”

The charity called on the government review the funding of the Homelessness Reduction Act – which only runs until 2020 – and for local authorities to publish homelessness and rough sleeping strategies informed by data on the scale of need in their area.

Centrepoint’s report, released on 11 November, found that while urban youth homelessness rates were down from 2016-17, this was “at odds” with rural areas which saw a 2% increase in the number of young people who presented to their council as homeless or at risk of being homeless.

The most common reasons for young people leaving their last settled base were parents no longer willing to accommodate them (37%), others no longer willing to accommodate them (15%), loss of rented accommodation due to termination or another reason (12%) and violent breakdown of relationship with partner (9%).

Centrepoint’s analysis was based on freedom of information data taken from 91% of local authorities in England

A Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government spokesperson said: “We are investing more than £1.2 billion to tackle all forms of homelessness, including amongst young people.

“Our new Homelessness Reduction Act is already making a difference and requires councils to intervene sooner and help those at risk of being left with nowhere to go.”

Charities and council leaders previously expressed concern that councils would not be able to meet the new duties outlined in the act.

In August, the government announced a new strategy to help end rough sleeping in the UK by 2027 with a £100m fund.

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