Original published by Inside Housing (and therefor behind paywall)
Despite extensive cuts to local authority budgets, millions of pounds are pouring from the public purse into youth homelessness services without any way of knowing what does and doesn’t work.
“The number of young people presenting as homeless is up by over 10% since last year.”
The latest statutory homelessness figures revealed homelessness has almost doubled for those over 25 since 2009 (an 80% increase), yet statutory youth homelessness bucks homelessness trends – it has almost halved since 2008 (down by c. 40%). This seems odd. In London we know young people sleeping rough has doubled in the last five years, and across the country young people are facing a competitive job market where wages have stagnated even as rents rise.
At Centrepoint, we decided this wasn’t good enough and in late 2014 launched the Youth Homelessness Databank to look beyond these numbers to map out what was happening on the ground. What we found shocked us and runs counter to government figures. You can see the data, and contribute your own, at our new website:www.yhdatabank.com
According to responses to our Freedom of Information requests, the number of young people presenting as homeless is up by over 10% since last year. The numbers of those accepted, and of those receiving non-accommodation support have fallen by 9% and 23% respectively. This could be gatekeeping, it could be a response to financial pressures, but until data is released on the number of people actually requesting support from local authorities, not just those assessed or accepted, we will not know how much pressure local authorities are under.
This is a knowledge gap the sector can help us fill. The Databank already has central government and local authority data But we need more. With the help of organisations working with young people across the country, we can produce a fuller map of youth homelessness, the pressures on local authorities and ideas of how best to prevent and respond to it.
Before appearing in statutory homelessness statistics a young person will have had to negotiate a housing options office, which will then have to accurately record their visit. The Youth Homelessness Databank’s figures show this isn’t happening.
Organisations in the sector have a wealth of individual-level data on interactions with a young person who has experienced, or is at risking of homelessness. This solitary story may be powerful in its own right, but its veracity could be multiplied when it joins the anonymised open-source data already populating the Youth Homelessness Databank.
With the collapse of local authority budgets, a resource of nuanced youth homelessness data has never been more important. If our data is accurate these great changes will be meted out onto services already stretched beyond capacity, with vulnerable young people bearing the brunt. We are ambitious, but the data, and the opportunity it presents, demands it.