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Making homeless young people count: The scale of youth homelessness in the UK

Research Report

The Government does not currently publish national data illustrating how many young people seek help as they are homeless in the UK. Without this information, locally and nationally, it is not possible to devise effective policy and guidance that will end youth homelessness.

Centrepoint’s Youth Homelessness Databank increases the data available on youth homelessness by gathering information at a local level to reveal the national picture. Crucially, this includes the number of young people who ask their local authority for help because they are homeless or at risk.

All data collected by Centrepoint is available through an online, open-access dashboard, at www.yhdatabank.com which holds data on youth homelessness across all local authorities in the UK. This provides the only single point of access to information on youth homelessness in the UK.

This year over 90 per cent of local authorities in England provided their youth homelessness data through Freedom of Information requests. This high response rate means we are able to provide the most comprehensive picture of youth homelessness to date. Data for Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales was obtained directly from their respective departments.

The data collected includes the number of young people who:

  • presented to their council as they are homeless or at risk
  • assessed under the Housing Act 1996
  • accepted as statutorily homeless and owed a housing duty by their council
  • given prevention and/or relief support

Data was also collected on the reasons for young people leaving their last settled base.

This data is more extensive than central government data publications on youth homelessness, which include only young people who were accepted as statutorily homeless and received a housing duty. That is only those who are eligible, unintentionally homeless and in priority need. As such, government data under-represents the true scale of youth homelessness in England. The Youth Homelessness Databank hopes to reframe the conversation on youth homelessness from those receiving support, to all those in need.

It is important that data is available that represents young people specifically as 16 to 24 year olds face unique circumstances, both leading to their homelessness and with respect to opportunities for prevention and relief. For example, many young people will have had to leave their home for the first time when they reach out to their council. Mediation with the family is often the first response by councils and additional support can be needed to help them to maintain their own accommodation for the first time.

Further, young people face particularly adverse circumstances when it comes to employment and welfare, which can have an effect on their ability to manage and maintain a tenancy. Young people renting in the private sector, for instance, are entitled only to the Shared Accommodation Rate of the Local Housing

This report centres on findings from Centrepoint’s analysis of data collected for the 2017/18 Youth Homelessness Databank. It updates findings from previous years, including Centrepoint’s estimate of the national scale of youth homelessness. Where possible, comparisons are made between 2016/17 and 2017/18 findings to understand youth homelessness over the past two years. The research also focuses mainly on findings in England; however data from the devolved nations is included where possible.