Family Homelessness in England: Results of a National Survey


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Presentation given by Nicholas Pleace and Deborah Quilgars, Centre for Housing Policy, University of York, UK at a FEANTSA Research Conference on "Homelessness and Poverty", Paris, France, 2009

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  • It is important to note that the New Labour idea of social exclusion is not quite like those used in the rest of Europe. Whereas the French idea of social cohesion and inclusion centres to some extent on citizenship, in the broadest sense including political participation, the English idea is much more about economic engagement in the sense of paid work. Barriers to social inclusion centre on the barriers to paid work, education, opportunity and so forth.
  • So we have a pyramid of social exclusion that is broadly associated with different patterns of homelessness. Lone h omeless people and those who experience street homelessness tend to have a range of support needs associated with m ental health problems , s ubstance misuse , offending, anti-social behaviour. The pyramid is useful because as the level of the support needs increases, so the relative size of the population falls. So we have a quite large group, relatively speaking, of structurally homeless individuals
  • Eligibility – certain “persons from abroad” are ineligible for assistance ( If you are a registered worker under the Workers Registration Scheme and have been working constantly for a year you are likely to be eligible for assistance. If you were working legally in the UK before 1st May 2004 and your employment has not changed it is likely you would be eligible for assistance. If you are a registered worker under the Worker Registration Scheme but have been working for less than a year it is unlikely you would be eligible for assistance). Homelessness - persons without any accommodation in the UK which they have a legal right to occupy, together with their whole household, are legally ‘homeless’. Those who cannot gain access to their accommodation, or cannot reasonably be expected to live in it (for example because of a risk of violence), are also homeless . Priority need – households that contain dependent children; pregnant women; adults who are ‘vulnerable’ for various reasons; and those who lost accommodation as a result of an emergency Intentional homelessness - deliberate acts or omissions that cause a person to lose their accommodation (e.g. running up rent arrears, anti-social behaviour, giving up accommodation that was reasonable to occupy, etc.). Local connection – households should have a local connection with a particular area because of residence, employment or family associations, or because of special circumstances (but not in cases where they are escaping violence)
  • 40% more lone women parents and 42% less couples with children than general population of England
  • And young...
  • Family Homelessness in England: Results of a National Survey

    1. 1. Homelessness and Social Exclusion in EnglandPoverty, social exclusion and family and youth homelessness Nicholas Pleace and Deborah Quilgars
    2. 2. Disclaimer• Based on UK government funded research• The views expressed in this presentation are not necessarily those of the Department for Communities and Local Government or any other government department.
    3. 3. English concept of social exclusion• Social exclusion as an idea arrived relatively late in England• New Labour late 1990s• Focused on paid work as the main route out of poverty• And out of social exclusion• Because ‘social exclusion’ is defined in large part as worklessness and the consequences of worklessness
    4. 4. Relationship to homelessness• “Shallow” or “structural” exclusion – There might be educational disadvantage, poor childhood experiences, location in a ‘zone of worklessness’, poor housing or homelessness – But this population can work, can secure and maintain housing, if reasonably paid work and adequate and affordable housing are available – Homeless families are most commonly associated with this more form of ‘structural’ exclusion
    5. 5. Relationship to homelessness• Chronic or deep exclusion – “Mutually reinforcing” sets of needs and experiences substance misuse, severe mental illness, offending, anti-social behaviour, sustained worklessness, homelessness, very negative childhood experiences and social and emotional isolation – Associated with people on the street, in emergency and supported homelessness accommodation, mainly lone men – Concern that young can enter this population and be ‘dragged down’ by it – They are homeless because they cannot work, cannot live independently
    6. 6. Most support needsLeast support needs
    7. 7. Different kinds of homelessness?• Small group of multiply excluded people who are a “high cost, high risk” population (top of the pyramid)• A bigger structurally excluded population (bottom of the pyramid)• A group of individuals and households that are between these two extremes – Street homeless people who are on the street for ‘structural’ reasons and will not remain there – Families whose homelessness is caused by substance misuse and other support needs
    8. 8. Exploring some recent evidence• Major surveys of households assisted under the homelessness legislation conducted in 2005• Focused on families and young people aged 16-17• Does not include all homelessness, but a big enough and diverse enough sample to explore these ideas• Young people should be closer to ‘high cost, high risk’, families should reflect structural exclusion with lower support needs, if these ideas are right
    9. 9. English statutory definition of homelessness• English definition of ‘Homelessness’ is close to the ETHOS definition of homelessness and housing exclusion• Not just literal rooflessness• Also includes households that have no accommodation they can reasonably occupy• Definition is derived from legislation originally passed in 1977
    10. 10. About the sample• Focused on people accepted for re-housing under the English legislation• Be eligible for assistance (asylum seekers and some A8 citizens are ineligible)• Be ‘homeless’ under the terms of the legislation• Be in priority need (have support needs, be at risk of violence, contain a child and/or a pregnant woman, or be aged 16-17)• Not be intentionally homeless• Usually demonstrate a local connection (excepting cases of domestic violence)
    11. 11. The surveys• Adults in homeless families accepted for re-housing in a six month window (first six months of 2005), 2,053 respondents• Young people aged 16-17 accepted for re- housing in the first six months of 2005, 350 respondents
    12. 12. Characteristics of families• Highly gendered• Young women with young children• Over-representation of ethnic minority groups• Over-representation of former asylum seekers and refugees
    13. 13. 11% of all families hadsought asylum in the UKmainly concentrated inLondonCannot access system ifa current or failed asylumseeker
    14. 14. Experience of social exclusion: Worklessness• Limited evidence that homelessness was associated with losing work• But most workless prior to homelessness• Low incomes, high rates of dependence on welfare benefits
    15. 15. Experience of social exclusion: Negative childhood experiences• 45% experienced divorce as a child• One third (33%) reported missing a lot of school as a child• One quarter excluded from school (24%)• One quarter experienced violence between their parents (24%)
    16. 16. Negative experiences as an adult• High rates of depression, anxiety and stress – over one half of respondents• 41% reported being in a violent relationship at some point – as the abused person• One third had been on welfare benefits for most of their adult life
    17. 17. But not “deeply” excluded?• Some educational attainment• Some paid work (29% of households)• Good social supports• Indicators of chronic exclusion not common – Severe mental illness – Substance misuse – Offending – Anti-social behaviour
    18. 18. Causation• Relationship breakdown a major cause – One partner leaves, there is not enough income to cover rent or mortgage and homelessness results – Male violence and abuse towards women and/or children a major cause of relationship breakdown• Loss of affordable tenancy• Lost housing and/or experienced relationship breakdown, stayed with family or friends, but that arrangement broke down• Substance misuse, mental health problems, chaotic behaviour not evident as causes
    19. 19. Trying to avoid homelessness• Evidence of agency• Tried to make alternative arrangements• Quite often only approached a local authority for help with informal relationships with family or friends broke down
    20. 20. Young people aged 16-17• Mainly lone persons• 49% lone young women• 37% lone young men• 82% White or White British origin
    21. 21. Differences with homeless families• More likely to have had negative childhood experiences – Parental divorce – Disruption to education – Running away, abuse, violence• More likely to have childhood experiences of substance misuse• Mental health problems comparable with adults in homeless families but almost three times the level found in general population of 16-17 year-olds• Evidence of mutually reinforcing relationship between substance misuse and mental health problems• Social supports broadly good though, like homeless families (85% had someone to listen to them, 80% had someone to help out in a crisis)
    22. 22. Worklessness• Much less likely than general population of 16-17 year-olds to be in education or training• More ‘workless’ than the homeless families• 57% were not in education, training or paid work• 34% had ceased education or training when they became homeless
    23. 23. Causes of homelessness• Relationship breakdown predominates – Mainly with parent(s) – Also break down of informal short term housing with friends or relatives• Also evidence of short term arrangements with other family and friends breaking down• Mental health problems, offending, substance misuse and anti-social behaviour not widespread
    24. 24. Different ‘types’ of homelessness?• Does appear to be evidence of ‘deeper’ social exclusion in some respects among young people• And a more ‘shallow’ exclusion among homeless families• But these are broad patterns, the evidence does not fit neatly into tidy paradigms of homelessness types• Poverty is the only thing approaching a constant in all of this• The idea of ‘shallow’ and ‘deep’ forms of social exclusion being associated with different ‘types’ of homelessness is probably too simplistic• Patterns are complex
    25. 25. Limitations• There are conceptual difficulties• ‘Social exclusion’ and ‘homelessness’ are broad taxonomies built by political ideology, policy, research definitions and administrative processes in the UK• Looking for relationships between these two taxonomies may be an over simplistic comparison of broad paradigms rather than an examination of a more complex reality
    26. 26. Lessons 1• If we acknowledge issues are in some senses “structural”, i.e. there aren’t enough jobs that pay enough and there aren’t enough adequate and affordable homes• We also acknowledge that – while valuable – interventions centred on individual support needs therefore have limits• Mutually reinforcing relationship between substance misuse, severe mental illness, offending and anti-social behaviour and homelessness also cannot be addressed using services to counter ‘shallow’ homelessness
    27. 27. Lessons 2• Addressing homelessness should not be seen as necessarily addressing all aspects of social exclusion• Something that is evident from these research results is a continuity of widespread poverty• Families and young people are poor and marginalised before they become homeless• They don’t ‘fall from grace’ into homelessness, rather it is a bad bump on a road they should not be on to begin with
    28. 28. Next steps for research• Would more data (including longitudinal data, a real gap in UK) reveal clearer causation?• Or would seemingly apparent patterns unravel the more we learned? Are the ‘patterns’ only there because our data are not fine grained enough?• The answer may lie in part in international comparison, which is not straightforward, but may reveal (or not reveal) ‘universal’ risk factors
    29. 29. The report and contact details• Full report (PDF):•• Nicholas Pleace, Senior Research Fellow• Deborah Quilgars, Senior Research Fellow