Locked Out: youth homelessness during and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic

This report highlights the state of youth homelessness during and beyond the pandemic and is based on a survey of English councils, analysis of Centrepoint’s Helpline data, and interviews with local authority and Centrepoint staff.

Executive summary

The Covid-19 pandemic has intensified many of the challenges already faced by young people experiencing or at risk of homelessness. It has highlighted just how a lack of suitable accommodation options, insecure employment and challenges with the benefits system are affecting young people across the UK. This report is based on a survey of English councils, analysis of Centrepoint’s Helpline data, and interviews with local authority and Centrepoint staff.

Since the start of the pandemic, there was an increase in homelessness reported by councils and calls to the Centrepoint Helpline increased by almost 50 per cent. Additionally, there were issues around accessibility of services with the majority of councils reporting to have closed their face to face services during the pandemic.

Central government interventions, such as the Everyone In scheme, the suspension of evictions, and changes to the benefits system were effective in supporting people experiencing or at risk of homelessness in the immediate term

Without addressing the structural factors which have meant so many people are facing homelessness in the first place, the longer term impacts of Covid-19 are likely to worsen the housing and homelessness crisis that the country is facing.

Key findings and recommendations:


Increase in homelessness

  • More than three quarters of council respondents (78 per cent) across England saw an increase in homelessness in their area since the start of the pandemic.
  • Calls to Centrepoint’s Helpline have increased by almost 50 per cent since the beginning of lockdown
  • The number of young people contacting Centrepoint’s Helpline who are sleeping rough has doubled since the lockdown

Accessibility of services

  • Eight in 10 councils report closing their face to face homelessness services during this time

Support during the pandemic

  • Fewer than a quarter of authorities say that these measures went far enough to support young people
  • A majority of councils said that the funding they have received during this time is not enough, with almost half of councils stressing that this funding is nowhere near enough to properly prevent and reduce homelessness in their area

Beyond the pandemic

  • Almost three quarters of councils foresee an increase in levels of homelessness due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • Fewer than a quarter are confident that they will be able to accommodate all those currently in emergency accommodation due to the Everyone In scheme


  • The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) should provide local government and housing associations with the resources to deliver a new generation of social housing, utilising public land and modern methods of construction.
  • MHCLG should establish a centralised portal for accessing local authority housing services, and work with authorities to guarantee minimum standards of accessibility and clarity for those seeking support.
  • MHCLG should ensure that all local authorities have resources to access a supply of age-specific supported accommodation and housing options
  • MHCLG should establish a long-term ringfenced fund for local authorities to provide homelessness prevention and housing-based support.
  • The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) should immediately bring forward the Shared Accommodation Rate (SAR) exemption for homeless under-25s and care leavers and review the SAR in light of the pandemic.
  • The DWP should commit to a long term linking of state support to actual market rents, by increasing the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) in line with the Retail Price Index, and review an increase beyond the 30th percentile.