There is no accurate source of information on the scale of youth homelessness in the UK.
That's why we've launched the Youth Homelessness Databank for 2016/17 – the biggest central source of data on youth homelessness in the UK.
The tool is a collection of data from local authorities, devolved authorities and central government. This means we can paint a more complete picture of youth homelessness than government data publications.
And the findings are shocking. We estimate around 86,000 young people in the UK presented to their local authority as homeless or at risk in the UK in 2016/17.
But without knowing the true scale of youth homelessness, how are we going to tackle it?
This year has proved the most successful to date for the Youth Homelessness Databank as 77 per cent of local authorities responded to our Freedom of Information Act requests.
We send these requests to gather information at a local level on the number of young people that:
- appeal to their council for help
- are accepted as statutorily homeless
- receive prevention and relief support.
Such a high response rate from councils allows us to make a confident estimate of the true scale of youth homelessness.
The comprehensive nature of the data also means we can better understand the journey of young people who ask for their council's help.
Alarmingly, 58 per cent of those asking for help don't receive a statutory housing duty or any prevention or relief support. Therefore the majority of young people are given informal support that may be as little as a generic hand out. This is not enough.
The Homelessness Reduction Act: a chance to reach even more young people
We welcome the introduction of the Homelessness Reduction Act (HRA) in April 2018. We also hope central government will now support local authorities to help them prepare for increased responsibilities. This must be backed up with the necessary resources and funding.
If the HRA guidance is followed accurately, the majority of the currently under-supported 58 per cent should receive documented prevention and relief support. It's essential that central government and local authorities do not underestimate the size of this group.
The Youth Homelessness Databank exists for data insights like these. We want to provide evidence of the scale of youth homelessness and the implications that new policy initiatives may bring.
Hannah Webster is Centrepoint's Research and Databank Officer. Get more updates about policy work on Twitter @CP_Policy.