Sophie Boobis, Head of Policy and Research at Homeless Link unpacks the findings of the latest major survey.
For the past 15 years Homeless Link has produced an annual review of the available support for single homelessness in England and today sees the launch of the 2022 edition. By exploring key trends in single homelessness and the nature and availability of support, the research aims to help service providers, commissioners, policy makers, and local authorities, understand and respond to the needs of people experiencing homelessness. We focus on single homelessness i.e. people without dependents because they are less likely than families to be to be entitled to housing by their local authority, and therefore often rely on homelessness charities for accommodation, advice and other forms of support
The findings are based on a range of data sources including a survey of accommodation providers and day centres and we are grateful to everyone who took the time to participate – the depth of learning we are able to gather from your input allows us to produce a comprehensive overview of the current picture of single homelessness provision.
68% of accommodation services stating they have had to reject a referral because their project was full
In 2022 there were 911 accommodation projects providing 33,093 bedspaces, and 173 day centres. Overall there has been a slight increase in accommodation providers since last year, but in the last 10 years the sector has shrunk by 33%, whilst at the same time homelessness has increased. This pressure on providers can be seen with 68% of accommodation services stating they have had to reject a referral because their project was full, and 96% of day centres report barriers in supporting people into accommodation.
40% of people currently accommodated were waiting to move-on, of which over half have been waiting for over 6 month
The 2022 Annual Review also highlights the impact that lack of affordable housing is having on the homelessness system, supporting recent research from CIH, Shelter, Crisis and beyond. Findings show that 40% of people currently accommodated were waiting to move-on, of which over half have been waiting for over 6 months but are not able to because of systemic barriers causing blockages. Providers pointed to lack of social housing and lack of private rented sector accommodation available at LHA rates as the primary driver of this.
The research also sets out how the sector has transformed over the last decade with the changing face of funding sources. With the once dominant "Supporting People" programme fading, and despite government investment since 2018, we see accommodation providers becoming increasingly reliant on Housing Benefit to fund their support services and accommodation. Over the last decade this has pushed more and more supported accommodation into becoming exempt providers. It shows how vital it is that the homelessness sector has a voice in shaping the upcoming regulation and licensing scheme being introduced through the Supported Housing (Regulatory Oversight) Act.
93% increase for mental health, 200% increase for physical health, 143% increase for substance misuse, and 110% increase for people with co-occurring or complex needs.
Since 2020 there has been a dramatic increase in the number of accommodation providers supporting people experiencing a wide variety of support needs, including a 93% increase for mental health, 200% increase for physical health, 143% increase for substance misuse, and 110% increase for people with co-occurring or complex needs. At the same time only 9% of accommodation providers state they are suited to supporting people with a high or complex needs. And providers still report significant barriers to accessing mental health and substance misuse services.
We urgently need to better understand why people experiencing homelessness are presenting with increasing levels of additional support needs, particularly as we know that many of these are causes of homelessness. Sufficient investment could ensure we prevent people from becoming homeless in the first place.
But we also know that much of this is also exacerbated by the experiences of being homelessness. We should not accept that because someone is experiencing homelessness, they have poorer health outcomes, and while the growth in appreciation and delivery of trauma informed care across the homelessness sector is very welcome we should not be reliant on housing providers to provide complex mental health support. Homelessness is a public health issue as much as it is a housing one and we need to see a commitment from national government to ensure homelessness considerations are embedded across health and social care policy.
As the rising cost of living continues to be felt by providers, and with more and more people in need of services, the impact on a sector that has been slowly shrinking over the past decade is being felt. The 2022 Annual Review shines a light on a sector facing increasing complexity, increasing demand and ongoing systemic barriers. On the bright side, regional variation tells us that there are examples of local areas working to reverse these trends, to increase capacity and to find ways of providing the support needed by people experiencing homelessness. Understanding this is key to identifying the best practice and ways of working needed to ensure that services can continue to effectively support people experiencing homelessness.