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£332 million funding gap for youth homelessness in England

Our latest research, conducted by WPI Economics, has found that local authorities in England are facing a shocking £332 million annual shortfall in youth homelessness funding.

In our most recent Youth Homelessness Databank, we estimated that a third of the 119,300 young people in England who asked their councils for support between April 2022 - March 2023 were not assessed. This is despite them being at risk of, or already experiencing homelessness. 

No vulnerable young person should be left in this situation without support.

Our latest research calculates how much local authorities would need to spend in order to meet obligations under the Homelessness Reduction Act (HRA) to assess and potentially support those young people. 

The Homelessness Reduction Act explains when someone is considered at risk, or ‘threatened with’ homelessness, and defines the duties of local authorities to provide support, including advisory services, assessments and securing accommodation where appropriate.

Up to £424 million shortfall in the most pessimistic scenarios

We looked at different scenarios to work out how much would be needed by local authorities to support young people. These included:

  • A baseline, where all young people in need are assessed and their cases proceed in the same way as assessed cases
  • Optimistic scenarios where unassessed young people are at a lower risk of homelessness
  • Pessimistic scenarios where unassessed young people are at a higher risk of homelessness

Even under the most optimistic scenario, English local authorities would need to see a 12 per cent increase in funding from central government to meet their duties – that’s £260 million. This increases all the way up to £424 million in the most pessimistic scenario where a young person’s homelessness is less easily prevented.

The main housing duty of the HRA is the most expensive cost, running up an average of £23,629 per case – and 88 per cent of this is taken up by the cost of providing temporary accommodation.

Six local authorities need more than £10 million to meet their duties

Despite the government already investing £2.4 billion to tackle homelessness, the research highlights that several local authorities are facing a shortfall of millions of pounds when it comes to youth homelessness funding.  

According to the research, one local authority, Newham, would need as much as £32 million under the baseline scenario. A further five – Liverpool, Hammersmith and Fulham, Ealing, Cornwall and Bexley – need in excess of £10 million.

Ending youth homelessness must be a priority

Alicia Walker, Head of Policy, Research and Campaigns at Centrepoint said: “Councils have a legal duty to assess anyone who presents as homeless, but we are deeply concerned that they do not have the means to carry out these duties. It's not good enough that so many young people are not getting the chance of that assessment, let alone accessing support. "

More than 119,000 young people in England faced homelessness last year, a record high, and we estimate an increasing proportion of them are being turned away without an assessment.

"Too many vulnerable young people, including those forced to sleep rough, in mental health crisis and fleeing abuse, are not getting the support they need because they are at the back of the queue when it comes to who local authorities are choosing to support.  

“We can’t just blame councils for this. It’s clear they don’t have the resources to meet increasing demand for homelessness services, and the government needs to address this crisis. By all indications, homelessness has soared in recent years and ending it should be a priority for all parties at the next election. That won’t be possible if councils don’t have the means to carry out their duties. 

“The government have put their money where their mouth is when it comes to investing in some services but it's clear that more – including a cross-departmental strategy and inflation-proof spending commitments – is needed just to keep on top of current demand, never mind address the increasing number of people without a home.” 

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