Lib Dems highlight plight of homeless young people

45000 people. It’s the size of a small town. It’s also the number of young people presenting as homeless to local authorities across the whole of Britain. The wonderful people in the Lib Dem research team have uncovered this in a series of freedom of information requests which revealed the number of 18-24 year olds who presented themselves to councils as homeless or at risk of homelessness, who were subsequently assessed under the Housing Act, and who were then accepted as statutorily homeless in the year to September 2017.

You can see a full breakdown of the figures here. Notable points include that four of the top five areas for young people being declared statutorily homeless are in Scotland where this is devolved to the Scottish Government.

This was sadly all too predictable as soon as George Osborne announced cuts to Housing Benefit for young people. He did this at the first chance he had, just after the 2015 election when he didn’t have Nick Clegg there to stop him any more. Vince Cable made the point about benefits cuts in his comments:

These figures reveal the hidden homelessness crisis affecting thousands of young people across the country.

It is a national scandal that so many youngsters are struggling to find a permanent place to call home.

Young people should be hopeful and looking to the future. Yet instead thousands will be spending this Christmas without a roof over their head, worrying about where they will sleep at night.

The situation is being made worse by the Government’s heartless decision to strip young people of housing benefit.

The government must reverse cuts to housing benefit for young people, invest more in preventing people from becoming homeless in the first place and build more genuinely affordable homes.

The utterly heartbreaking thing is that these figures don’t even include all the young people where a final decision was made, not the full number who applied and may have been turned down. 

If someone has a secure home, then any other issues or problems are so much easier to sort. Try getting a job if you don’t have a permanent address. How is your health, physical and mental, going to be if you don’t know where you are going to sleep that night or have to rely on sofa surfing amongst your friends and family.  A friend of mine faced homelessness earlier this year after a flat share went wrong. It was a hugely unsettling and terrifying experience. We simply should not tolerate a situation where so many young people starting out in life don’t have a proper, permanent base.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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24 Comments

  • Helen Dudden 27th Dec '17 - 10:45am

    The amount of young people with mental health issues, is one of the products of this issue. Housing prices above affordable, affordable rents not affordable. Social housing, should be just that.
    I feel for this generation, caught up in a situation going nowhere.
    More housing urgently needed. Vulnerable young adults need to be housed. Unless, this happens, the future for them is bleak!

  • “when he didn’t have Nick Clegg there to stop him any more” – “Nothing to do with me, Guv. It wos a big boy wot dun it”.

    Homelessness in England rises 54% since 2010 | The Independent
    http://www.independent.co.uk › News › UK › Home News
    30 Jun 2016 – Homelessness among English households has risen 54 per cent since 2010, according to government figures. … This represents the sixth consecutive annual rise, with households becoming homeless in London increasing to 17,530 (9 per cent) in the last year alone and 58,000 households …

  • We need a policy where.

    Anyone who owns an ex-local authority house and rents it out has to first offer it to the local authorities private sector leasing scheme.
    Yes it pays below market rents and is more in line with LHA rates, however, the local authority is the tenant and guarantee the rent regardless of whether they have a tenant in there or not.
    The local authority is also responsible for any damages and returning to the property to you at the end of the term in the same decorated condition that you leased it to them.

    It is a good scheme for landlords as it takes the stress out renting out your properties and tenant running off without paying, expensive court cases and repair bills.

    Council Houses that were brought under the right to buy scheme should never have ended up in the hands of property portfolios and it is time it was stopped.

  • I understand that Vince visited a homeless shelter for young people on Christmas Day (as well as an old people’s home). It is good to see the Lib Dem research team and leadership highlighting the plight of these young folk.
    This generation has been short-changed by the way public finances have been managed. ALTER will be a consulting at the Southport conference on Land Value Tax reforms aimed at addressing inequity in the housing market. This is an area where Liberal Democrats can change society for the better if we get the policy approach right.

  • As one who is a year round (not just for Christmas) volunteer with the homeless/rough sleepers may I remind Caron that the rapid increase in such tragedies didn’t start in 2015..

  • Please let us remember there are middle age homeless people as well. Their plight may be due to job loss, marriage breakdown or mental illness.

  • William Fowler 27th Dec '17 - 1:23pm

    Something has gone very wrong somewhere. We have one of the most expensive welfare systems on the planet yet all these young people homeless, some sleeping on the street. Doubt if the level of housing benefit has much to do with it as many look so rough and ruined most landlords won’t let them across the threshold. Also, had the ridiculous situation (before Brexit) where you had British youngsters sleeping on the street whilst foreign youths, with marginal English, were working in nearby shops and restaurants – presumably with no easy access to housing but somehow bunking up somewhere. Failures in the education system and the expectation that the State will do everything for them, possibly the root cause of the current malaise.

    Small hostels spread around the country, near to low level sources of work, probably the only way to get them on their feet again. Vitally important that the huge social housing estates of the past are not replicated, limited to say twelve rooms on govn/council land to take down the cost and spread around the country.

  • William you ask the question

    “Something has gone very wrong somewhere.”

    Then ramble on about the cost. Well there is a simple answer more social housing. It would drive down rents and make housing more affordable. That however would upset the “Rentier Class” aka Buy to Let and there is no way the Tories will upset them. As to large council estate, well the larger the estate the lower the unit cost, if you want smaller house estates (and i don’t mean hostels) fair enough as long as you are willing to pay the extra.

    P.S it’s not the look of the tenants putting landlord’s off, it’s the doubt they will get paid. Still blaming the poor is an old Tory tradition, it’s a pity you buy in to it.

  • I actually do not understand what is wrong with social housing estates.
    Up until recently I lived all of my life on one, went to a very good Comprehensive School.

    As long as the area has good employment opportunities and good public services, then there is nothing wrong with social housing estates.

    @William Fowler
    “twelve rooms on govn/council land”
    Are you really suggesting that on a development only 12 houses should be social housing, that is nowhere enough to deal with the social housing crisis.

    What this country needs is a mass program of eco-friendly Prefab housing, they can be put up extremely quickly, will be a massive boost to manufacturing and building and provide vital jobs in the community.
    What this country does not need is development after development of 4 bedroom executive homes which seems to keep popping up everywhere of late and are priced way above what the reach of most families desperate to get on the housing ladder

  • Bruce Milton 27th Dec '17 - 8:58pm

    I’m sure there are many reasons for holessness however a part solution may well be in empty high street shops upper levels.

    I rented above a shop in my youth however companies are not encouraged supported to convert these areas which I know there are plenty of across High streets.
    – Companies find it more beneficial to close the space down to save on rates.
    – To my knowledge these flats are now not classed as such and therefore not included as possible housing.

    A policy that encouraged High street stores to utilise vacant space for housing could have many benefits and in long run be a likely cost neutral to the tax payer.
    – Create affordable rental properties
    – Create local residents for the High street to regain lost footfall and therefore sales.
    – Reduce theft, vandalism in towns by having eyes on the street.
    – Aid our towns to regain a High street identity that would benefit all locals.

    High street housing, back to the future.

  • Jayne mansfield 27th Dec '17 - 9:51pm

    Quote from Polly Neat CEO of Shelter.

    ‘We know that losing a tenancy is the number one cause of homelessness so attempts by any political party to increase renters’ rights and reduce no fault evictions, so that people can keep a roof over their heads, should be warmly welcomed.’

    Quite so.

    But which party has had the guts to challenge Thatcherite Ideology and policy ?

  • Jayne mansfield 27th Dec '17 - 10:01pm

    @ William Fowler,
    Maybe a return to the workhouse?

  • Jayne mansfield 27th Dec '17 - 10:44pm

    @ expats,
    I commend you.

    For some politics is an intellectual exercise, interesting on an intellectual level. For others ,it is a deeply held passionate concern, often borne of personal experience, for those less fortunate, whom we still choose to meet with and closely associate with in our daily life. People who are not an abstraction, but people who are more often than not, we know to be struggling heroically against an unfair and unjust system.

    The sad thing for me is, that social class and its overarching impact, whatever the merits of intersectionality, has been diminished in liberal circles. The baby has been thrown out with the bathwater,

    My regards to Mrs Expats, and a happy and feisty New Year to both of you.

  • @ Caron Do the Liberal Democrats plan to support the stopping of ‘No fault evictions’ as introduced by the Scottish Government this year and supported by Shelter – and supported today by Mr. Corbyn ?

  • Bruce,

    You may well be onto something, but it would need a structure as landlord that rent shops may not be or want to be experts on renting flats. Perhaps a public/private relationship; housing associations effectively act as agents for the shop owners, ensuring the accommodation is up to spec and providing the interface with the tenants. As an incentive perhaps there could be a negative rate set for this sort of accommodation, making it more expensive to board up than let.

  • “I actually do not understand what is wrong with social housing estates.

    As long as the area has good employment opportunities and good public services, then there is nothing wrong with social housing estates.”

    You’ve answered yourself – many of them don’t. A lot are terribly designed, have poor access to jobs and public services, and often appear to be used as an excuse to chuck anybody ‘society’ doesn’t really want out of the way.

    Though a strange and inadequate solution the following would be, yes….

    “limited to say twelve rooms on govn/council land to take down the cost and spread around the country.”

  • Helen Dudden 28th Dec '17 - 10:17am

    I agree James. Both my sister and grew up on a council estate, a lot owned privately now, but I can’t remember anyone that was not working. Rents were fairer, and properties never seemed to get wrecked. I’m in my 60’s so perhaps there was a different concept of home. I know now there were many larger estates where things could have been different, but the small town was just that.

  • @James

    “You’ve answered yourself – many of them don’t. A lot are terribly designed, have poor access to jobs and public services, and often appear to be used as an excuse to chuck anybody ‘society’ doesn’t really want out of the way.”

    But you are talking about the housing estates of old. We are now talking about NEW developments.
    When you say terribly designed, what exactly are we talking about here?
    If we are talking about high rises, then I would agree. If we are talking about tightly compact row after row, back alley after back alley estates, then I would agree.
    But then, I was not suggesting that.

    A well planned thought out housing estates that have a mixture of 2 and 3 bedroom Houses and flats semi and Terraced style, green spaces / parks, community centres and local services, whats wrong with that?

    Admittedly, I dont know what is going on in other parts of the country, I can only talk about Norfolk / Breckland and what I see going on here.
    There is development after development popping up on the outskirts of the main city / towns. Lovely new housing developments with excellent transport links with these executive 3-4 and even 5 bedroom homes. Well out of the reach of most families struggling to get on the housing ladder. Lots are being sold as 2nd homes for wealthy Londoners wanting to enjoy the Norfolk Champagne Coast, many others are being sold under (shared ownership) the latest rip of scandal waiting in the wings.

    These developments are doing nothing to solve the housing crisis and yet the figures get added to the statistics for the amount of new builds completed in that year, it is wrong.
    The only way to solve the social housing crisis is to build the bloody things, not throw in a couple of “token units” here and there in private developments

  • Jayne mansfield 27th Dec ’17 – 10:44pm….Thank you for your best wishes and may I take this opportunity to respond in kind…
    Mrs Expats and I were out early this morning and it was a sit down ‘Full English Breakfast’ for those who wanted it (almost everyone, in fact)…We handed out the thermal socks left over from our Christmas give-away and several, who had already had theirs, showed how they were being put to good use…

    Mrs. expats and I get more pleasure from doing our little bit than I can express in words…At Christmas I watched the, to me at least, definitive 1951 ‘Scrooge’ and each year we seem to be on an steeper slope in returning to such times…Each year the ‘cracks’ that people fall through get wider and harder to climb back out of…

    Your quote from Polly Neat (CEO of Shelter) is spot on…Such things put a, sometimes, unbearable strain on families and often lead to a partner (usually, although not exclusively, male) leaving to become a ‘surfer’ and then a rough sleeper…..As ‘matt’ says the only answer is a council house programme on the scale of the post-war years…Sadly, it was not a priority of the Blair years and when we had our chance to do something we ‘blew it’…Corbyn seems to offer some radical hope; will he do it, who knows? but no-one else seems to offer more than token gestures..

    Anyway, rant over (for this year anyway)…Best wishes for all on here and I hope I don’t meet any of you in need of a hot bacon/sausage bun and a ‘cuppa’……

  • “A well planned thought out housing estates that have a mixture of 2 and 3 bedroom Houses and flats semi and Terraced style, green spaces / parks, community centres and local services, whats wrong with that?”

    I was going to say, well they sound promising but where are they? Though you’ve just said there are some in the Norfolk area.

    I’m not sure how new is ‘new’, but there are some estates I’ve seen in various parts of the UK which appear to be at least fairly new developments which consist of hundreds of homes spread out in a maze like fashion, often with a fence around the whole thing, and nothing more inside/near by than a single small playground and a corner shop.

    Then again, personally I don’t consider many new build housing of any type or purpose to be particularly well thought out or designed. I find them often small, identikit, and isolated from existing communities – built more to suit whoever can make money from them rather than those who’ll actually live in them. Its something that really bothers me.

  • @James
    “I’m not sure how new is ‘new’, but there are some estates I’ve seen in various parts of the UK which appear to be at least fairly new developments which consist of hundreds of homes spread out in a maze like fashion, ”

    What year are you calling new? As far I knew, the Government have not built any new significant Social housing estates in decades

    “Then again, personally I don’t consider many new build housing of any type or purpose to be particularly well thought out or designed. I find them often small, identikit, ”
    Could you maybe tell us what your idea wold be to solve the shortage of “social housing” and homelessness and the type of housing you would like to see.

  • Helen Dudden 28th Dec '17 - 7:35pm

    It would be interesting if anyone lives near Reading, and the 28 pre fabs being constructed on a former mobile home site. They look very modern internally, and is this a way forward in the short term? I can remember them in Bath.
    An address is needed, so could be a solution until a better way is found.
    Better than a doorway.

  • debi blanchard 29th Dec '17 - 1:51am

    your figures for statutery are all young parents who are always statutary. If you had asked for the number of 18-24y WITHOUT CHILDREN who get statutary the scale of gatekeeping and discrimination against young people would have been horrifyingly clear. In the last finantial year in eternal labour manchester just 13 18-24y WITHOUT children were statutarily housed.Thats 1 a month.Thats preportionaly the most miserly in the country. And the contract for the remarkably efficient gatekeeping interveiws is held by…centrepoint. I have asked for an explanation but due to council funding confidentiality they wont explain this bizzarly low figure. why dont they take the good advice of there own centrepoint national helpline and vigorously appeal on behalf of the many young mancs denied statutary status they should be entitled to? hmm, odd. so do repeat this FOI but do as we did and ask for 18-24 WITHOUT children. and then ask who holds the contracts for the homeless assessments in those areas . Thats the real tragic shocking story of youth exclusion. He who pays the piper calls the tune. and thats never young people.redistribution of wealth, housing and justice is now a clear generational issue.

  • Helen Dudden 30th Dec '17 - 8:06am

    I think the cut backs and cost is one reason. In Bath, a very expensive area, million pound properties being built. One project have rejected affordable housing for over 55’s. I think social housing is not a welcome addition to some areas?
    The comments on middle age homeless is also a problem.
    There should some real acceptance of the problems with social housing, body at government level to implement further house building.
    The young may never get back on their feet, unless given hope and a warm home.

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