A substantial number of homeless applicants are still unable to secure housing, despite legislation designed to prevent people from losing their home, a leading homelessness charity has found.
According to data published by Crisis, single households reached the end of post-Homelessness Reduction Act operational procedures without having secured settled accommodation in 2019-2020
It’s its latest Homelessness Monitor, the charity also found that some 20,000 single households hadn’t even had such accommodation offered to them by local authorities.
It was also revealed that around 305,000 households registered homelessness applications, with 289,000 deemed as homeless or threatened with homelessness.
The Homelessness Reduction Act was introduced in 2017 after the work of an independent panel established by Crisis highlighted a number of issues with pre-existing legislation, including a lack of protection for single households.
Introduced to ensure councils could intervene much earlier in the prevention of homelessness, the Act places a legal duty on local authorities to assist any eligible household secure accommodation, regardless of whether they are in ‘priority need’.
Last year, TLE heard from families who had been evicted through no fault of their own, but were still denied housing by local authorities as they were considered not to be in ‘priority need’.
But, according to a report, entitled Evaluation of the Implementation of the Homelessness Reduction Act, of the 263,720 households accepted as being owed a prevention or relief duty, a “high proportion” were non-priority households.
Amongst those threatened with homelessness and entitled to a ‘prevention’ duty in 2019-2020, almost half were single adults, with almost three-quarters of those actually homeless deemed single people.
“This is in stark contrast to the pre-Homelessness Reduction Act era when the key headline statistic – households ‘accepted’ by local authorities as in ‘priority need’ – comprised only around one-third single people,” the Monitor states.
Temporary accommodation on the rise
Meanwhile, the Monitor revealed that temporary accommodation placements have increased by 91 per cent since 2011, with Bed and Breakfast hotel placements continuing to increase “at a rate exceeding that of all temporary accommodation”.
“Thanks to various temporary protective measures (especially income protection programmes and eviction moratoria), the COVID-19 pandemic triggered no immediate overall increase in homelessness applications,” the Monitor explains.
But temporary accommodation placements have increased, particularly among single homeless people, as a result of emergency measures such as the Everyone In scheme.
Introduced during the first lockdown, the government programme has provided over 37,000 rough sleepers with a place to stay during the pandemic.
Crisis has predicted that the “economic aftermath” of COVID-19 risks an increase in core homelessness, unless the government “implements a range of housing and welfare mitigation interventions”.
According to the charity, “a pressing priority remains effective move-on arrangements for people temporarily accommodated during the COVID-19 crisis.”
Figures obtained by Shelter found that fewer than a quarter of homeless people helped at the start of the pandemic have been given settled accommodation.
‘Room for improvement’
According to St Mungo’s, the Homelessness Reduction Act has failed to prevent people from sleeping rough – which has risen by 165% since 2010.
The charity claims the Act has been implemented at a time of “spiralling housing costs, increasing insecurity for private renters and cuts to homelessness services” which resulted in 4,677 people sleeping rough in England on a given night in 2018.
St Mungo’s public affairs officer, Amy Fleming, said: “We think there is still room to improve the Homelessness Reduction Act with a new ‘Somewhere Safe to Stay’ legal duty to protect people at immediate risk of sleeping rough.”
Meanwhile, a 2019 survey by the New Local Government Network found that more than two-thirds of councils in England believe they do not have sufficient funding to fulfil their legal duty to prevent homelessness.
For Francesca Albanese, head of research at Crisis, there are a number of factors that have impacted the ability of single people to secure settled accommodation.
“Particularly it’s an issue of housing supply – when you’re talking about single adults it’s about having affordable housing supply of one bedroom properties of which we know there is not enough of,” she told TLE.
“I think other things that are affecting single households are related to the welfare system. The Local Housing Allowance, which is the housing benefit used to access the private rented sector, was temporarily uplifted during the pandemic – it’s now been frozen again.”
But for Albanese, the issue of ‘priority need’ has also played a role. “While people are helped during the prevention and relief stages of the Act, the full duty – which is still in place – required you to pass a number of tests surrounding eligibility and whether or not you’re in priority need – that’s probably why you’re seeing a lot of single households fall out of the system.”
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