Homelessness in the United Kingdom is measured and responded to in differing ways in in England, in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland but affects people living in all areas of the country. The UK homeless charity Shelter put the 2017 figure for the whole of the UK's homeless at 300,000. Recorded deaths among rough sleepers and those in temporary accommodation more than doubled in the five years to 2018.
Video Homelessness in the United Kingdom
History of homelessness support
Major instances of homelessness in the history of the United Kingdom have included:
- the Highland Clearances and Lowland Clearances in Scotland (19th century)
- the Great Famine in Ireland (1845-1852)
- intimidation during the Irish War of Independence (1919-1921), including the destruction of country houses
- strategic aerial bombing during Second World War, including the Blitz (1940-1941), the Baby Blitz (1944) and the V-weapons offensive (1944-1945)
- the North Sea flood of 1953 (resulting in 30,000 people becoming homeless)
- the 1969 Northern Ireland riots (around 1,800 families made homeless) and subsequent intimidation during and following the Troubles
Historically, homelessness support was provided by monastic communities but after the Reformation, governmental support was provided by means of the poor law, which differed in England and Wales, Scotland, and Ireland; though under the same Crown for most of this time, these were different jurisdictions. Eventually, a system of elected local authorities replaced the looser organisation of disparate local administrative bodies, including poor law unions.
Maps Homelessness in the United Kingdom
To prevent homelessness Crisis maintains with support from Justin Welby the public sector should:
- Build 100,500 social homes a year to address the needs of homeless people and those on low income.
- Introduce Housing First nationally providing homes and specialized support for homeless people.
- Improve rights for private renters and improve housing benefit.
- The care system, hospitals, prisons should be legally required to help find homes for those leaving their care.
- There should be homelessness specialists at Job Centres.
Causes of homelessness
The longer term causes of homelessness have been examined by a number of research studies. A number of different pathways into homelessness have been identified; research suggests that both personal factors (e.g. addictions) and structural factors (e.g. poverty) are ultimately responsible for the sequence of events that results in homelessness. For young people, there are additional factors that appear to be involved, most notably needing to face the responsibilities of independent living before they are ready for them. Rising cost of housing and increasing job insecurity have also been identified as contributing factors.
The housing crisis had increased the number of homeless pensioners by 115% in 8 years, some are in temporary housing or sofa surfing but others are sleeping rough. Lone parent families ae also disproportionately often homeless, 63% of families in temporary housing are lone parent while 32% of all families are lone parent. Campaigners maintain government welfare cuts, unavailability of affordable housing and increasing rents caused the increasing number of homeless people. 123,130 children were in temporary housing in England in the first three months of 2018, nearly 80% more than in 2011.
Women fleeing domestic violence and abuse are frequently unable to access shelters, A survey by Women's Aid found 12% were forced to sleep rough, 46% sofa surfed, 8% returned to the abuser. This included pregnant women and women with children. The government plans to take refuges and other types of short-term supported housing away from the welfare system and there are warnings this will increase the number of abuse victims becoming homeless. Removing housing benefit would prevent women escaping abuse paying for their housing, the last guaranteed income for refuges. The benefit comprises on average 53% of refuge income. Katie Ghose of Women's Aid said, "It is no wonder that women and their children who are literally fleeing for their lives end up sleeping rough or returning to an abusive partner if they are turned away from services who should be helping them." 54% of women who tried to get support from their local housing team, were prevented from making a homeless application, and were therefore refused help for emergency accommodation. 23%, were told they were not a priority despite multiple vulnerabilities, and 15% were forced to give proof they had suffered domestic abuse.
53% of families in temporary housing are working families. Shelter blames a 73% rise in private-sector rents, the housing benefit freeze, unstable tenancies and insufficient social housing. Polly Neate of Shelter said, "It's disgraceful that even when families are working every hour they can, they're still forced to live through the grim reality of homelessness."
Modern Governmental assistance
Policy on homelessness is overseen by the Department for Communities and Local Government and Homes and Communities Agency in England, the Scottish Government Housing and Social Justice Directorate, the Welsh Government, and the Department for Communities and Northern Ireland Housing Executive in Northern Ireland. It has been a devolved policy area outside England since the introduction of devolution in the 1990s. The Grenfell Tower fire in June 2017 focused national attention on homelessness and housing quality, and resulted in around 255 people becoming homeless overnight.
All local authorities in the UK have a legal duty to provide 24-hour advice to homeless people, or those who are at risk of becoming homeless within 28 days. Once an individual applies to a local authority for assistance, from a person claiming to be homeless (or threatened with homelessness), the local authority is also duty bound to make inquiries into that person's circumstances, in order to decide whether they suffer statutory homelessness. For people meeting such criteria, the authority has a legal duty to find accommodation for the person, and provide them with assistance. Lack of financial support from the UK government is preventing Local Authorities from carrying out their duties to homeless people. Local Authorities should legally provide homelessness assistance to people with the right to live in the UK. Rough sleeping has risen 169% since 2010. Centrepoint found 57% of Local Authorities find it hard to carry out their duties to people from 16 to 24 years old alone and need to do 45.000 further assessments just to carry out their legal duties to this age group. Only 13% of young people were housed by their Local Authority in 2017. The government allocated £72 million over three years to English Local Authorities to meet their obligations but it is unclear if this is sufficient.
Limitation to assistance
Homeless people are sometimes fined or sent to prison for begging or rough sleeping. More than 50 Local Authorities have Public Space Protection Orders. Homeless people are banned from town centres, some are routinely fined hundreds of pounds or sent to prison for repeatedly begging. The above treatment can make it harder for homeless people to sort their lives out and find work.
Homeless people have difficulty accessing dental services because they cannot provide an address.
Large numbers of homeless people die and when this happens authorities do little to find out the cause of death or to prevent future similar deaths. 80% of rough sleepers who died in London in 2017 had mental health problems compred to 29% in 2010 according to research by St Mungo's. Petra Salva of St Mungo's said, "This is a scandal and something the government needs to recognise and do more about ... there should be more funds and support for these groups but instead they have been cut over the years and that correlates in these people stuck living on the streets ... these deaths are preventable." There are calls to make help for homeless people with mental health issues more readily available and more quickly available. Salva maintains figures for homeless deaths are an underestimate because homeless deaths are not recorded at national or local level.
A person suffers statutory homelessness if governmental regulations oblige the council to provide housing-related support to the person. At present this criteria is met if (and only if) all of the following conditions are true:
- they do not have a permanent home
- the person is not prevented from accessing UK public funds by immigration laws
- the person has a local connection to the local authority's area (this could, for example, be the residential presence of family, friends, or previous residence of the person themselves)
- the person unintentionally become homeless (this does not include eviction for non-payment of rent)
- the person is in priority need; this condition has been abolished in Scotland since the start of 2013, and there are campaigns for it to be abolished in the rest of the UK.
The definition of priority need varies between England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, but generally includes any of following conditions being met:
- a dependant child
- an age of 16-17
- aged 18-20 and leaving local authority care
- vulnerability due to
- old age, or
- mental illness, or
- mental/physical disability
- leaving the armed forces
- leaving prison
- fleeing, or at the risk of, domestic violence
- homelessness due to an emergency (such as flood, fire, or other disaster)
A person does not have to be roofless to legally qualify as lacking a permanent home. They may be in possession of accommodation which it is not reasonably feasible to continue to use by virtue of its affordability, condition, or location. The requirement to have a local connection does not apply if it would lead to the applicant becoming a victim of violence, or at risk of violence.
In Wales, priority need was similarly extended to include individuals who are aged 18 to 20 and at risk of financial or sexual exploitation, but provided they are leaving care.
Temporary accommodation must be provided to those that might be suffering statutory homelessness, pending a final decision. Often bed and breakfast hotels are used for temporary accommodation, unless a suitable hostel or refuge is available. The suitability of temporary accommodation is often a topic of concern for local media, and pressure groups.
If the council concludes that the applicant suffers statutory homelessness then the local authority has a legal duty to find long-term accommodation for the applicant and their household (those dependants who would ordinarily be living with them), and any other person whom it is reasonable to expect to reside with them. The council must offer/continue to provide temporary accommodation to such an applicant, on an immediate basis, until long-term accommodation is found for them.
Long-term accommodation may not necessarily be a socially rented home (one provided by the council, or by a Housing Association); the council can discharge its duty by finding an appropriate private sector tenancy for the applicant.
If the authority decides that a person does lack a home, but does not qualify as suffering statutory homelessness, then a lesser obligation applies.
Where the applicant merely lacks a local connection to the council, the council will usually refer the applicant's case to a local authority with which they do have a local connection. If the applicant is in priority need, but is considered to have become homeless intentionally, the local authority is obliged to provide temporary accommodation for as long as is reasonably necessary for the applicant to find long-term accommodation; this is usually a fortnight, but additional periods of similar length can sometimes be provided at the council's discretion (typically granted in cases of extenuating circumstances).
A national service, called Streetlink, was established in 2012 to help members of the public obtain near-immediate assistance for specific rough sleepers, with the support of the Government (as housing is a devolved matter, the service currently only extends to England). Currently, the service doesn't operate on a statutory basis, and the involvement of local authorities is merely due to political pressure from the government and charities, with funding being provided by the government (and others) on an ad-hoc basis. The UK government has cut funding to local authorities and local authorities feel forced to reduce services for homeless people. It is feared this will increase the numbers of rough sleepers and increase the numbers dying while sleeping rough.
A member of the public who is concerned that someone is sleeping on the streets can report the individual's details via the Street Link website or by calling 0300 500 0914. Someone who finds themselves sleeping on the streets can also report their situation using the same methods. It is important to note that the Streetlink service is for those who are genuinely sleeping on the streets, and not those who may merely be begging, or ostensibly living their life on the streets despite a place to sleep elsewhere (such as a hostel or supported accommodation).
The service aims to respond within 24 hours, including an assessment of the individual circumstances and an offer of temporary accommodation for the following nights. The response typically includes a visit to the rough sleeper early in the morning that follows the day or night on which the report has been made. The service operates via a number of charities and with the assistance of local councils.
Where appropriate, rough sleepers will also be offered specialist support:
- if they have substance misuse issues, they will be referred for support from organisations such as St. Mungo's (despite the name, this is a non-religious charity)
- if they are foreign nationals with no right to access public funds in the UK, repatriation assistance will be offered, including finding accommodation in the home country, construction of support plans, and financial assistance.
Other sources of assistance
Practical advice regarding homelessness can be obtained through a number of major non-governmental organisations including,
- Citizens Advice Bureaus and some other charities also offer free legal advice in person, by telephone, or by email, from qualified lawyers and others operating on a pro bono basis
- Shelter provides extensive advice about homelessness and other housing problems on their website, and from the telephone number given there, including about rights and legal situations.
The UK has a long and proud history of homeless assistance coming from the Church. Research shows that the homeless community would be severely worse off if it were not for FBOs (Faith Based Organisations) such as The Salvation Army and Christians Against Poverty.
Official statistics on homelessness for:
- Northern Ireland (included in Northern Ireland Housing Statistics)
The UK homeless charity Shelter put the 2017 figure for the whole of the UK's homeless at 300,000.
Research by The Guardian newspaper found that the "number of homeless people recorded dying on streets or in temporary accommodation has more than doubled over the last five years in the UK". Between 2013 and 2017, 230 people have died following a yearly increase in the number of deaths. The Guardian determined that in 2013, 31 homeless persons died, while in 2017 that number had risen to 70.
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Housing in the United Kingdom
- Affordability of housing in the United Kingdom
- Poverty in the United Kingdom
- Angell, Ian, "No More Leaning on Lamp-posts", London School of Economics
- BBC News, "Warning over homelessness figures: Government claims that homelessness numbers have fallen by a fifth since last year should be taken with a health warning, says housing charity Shelter", Monday, 13 June 2005
- BBC Radio 4, "No Home, a season of television and radio programmes that introduce the new homeless.", 2006
- "UK Housing Review", University of York, England
Source of the article : Wikipedia