More than four in ten homeless young people could be hit by removal of housing support

Tuesday, 15 December 2015 - 12:00am

Research published today shows that up to 44% of young people in homelessness services could be affected by the proposal to remove the automatic entitlement to housing costs for 18-21 year-olds.  Homeless Link warns that this policy will leave thousands of vulnerable young people with nowhere to turn for help.

Housing Benefit provides a safety net to young people, without which they would not be able to access accommodation. For those at a point of crisis, removal of housing support could also push vital homelessness services out of reach.

Young and Homeless 2015, a survey of homelessness service providers and local authority housing departments, indicates that the problem is compounded by wider welfare reforms and lack of affordable and shared housing: 

  • 95% of homelessness services reported that benefit sanctions have affected young people’s ability to access accommodation.
  • 73% reported that the extension of the Shared Accommodation Rate – which limits the amount of housing benefit young people can receive in the private rented sector – has greatly affected young people’s ability to access accommodation.
  • On average, the time spent in homelessness services was 16 months, almost twice as long as in last year’s survey (8.5 months).

Given the barriers that young people face, a greater focus on preventing homelessness is vital. There are signs of improvement in this area, as 64% of local authorities now have a Positive Pathway model which outlines the support that organisations have agreed to offer young people.

However, there are signs that lack of resources is making this difficult. Four in ten (42%) local authorities reported not having an adequate range of tools to prevent youth homelessness, and just 23% of young people who approached their council for help had their homelessness prevented or relieved.

43% of local authorities said they lack youth specific accommodation, and 39% reported that supported housing had been reduced, cut or isn’t available in their area.

Relationship breakdown with parents or care-givers or willingness to accommodate remains the most common cause of youth homelessness, accounting for nearly half (47%) of all cases, Local authorities reported family mediation as one of the most effective means of preventing youth homelessness, yet the proportion offering this service has dropped from 77% in 2014 to 70% in 2015.

The report calls for:

  • A national focus on young people at risk, led by the Ministerial Working Group on homelessness
  • The Government to exempt young people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness from the removal of the automatic right to housing costs
  • Better access to sustainable housing for young people, including rent deposit and bond schemes, shared housing s and peer landlord schemes
  • Future employment support programmes to take account of the additional pressures on young homeless people caused by their insecure housing situation
  • Local authorities to offer a range of prevention initiatives including investment in family mediation and access to emergency accommodation
  • Every local authority to implement a Positive Pathway model to ensure appropriate accommodation options for young people are in place depending on their personal needs.

Rick Henderson, Chief Executive of Homeless Link, said:

“An effective welfare system should protect the most vulnerable, not create additional barriers. This is especially true for young people, as we know early experience of homelessness can cause problems in later life that are difficult to overcome.

“This report should send a clear signal to the Government that removing housing support could have a devastating impact on young people at the time when they are most in need of support.

“Voluntary sector agencies and local authorities are doing excellent work to help young people, but are increasingly being asked to do more with less. We’re calling for the commitment and investment needed to prevent young people from becoming homeless and support them to realise their potential.”      

You can download the full report below.

Young and homeless 2015

Our fifth annual Young & Homeless report explores the reasons young people became homeless in 2015, the support available to them, and areas that need to be improved.

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