Coping on Marginal Incomes: Homeless People who are Rehoused
Coping on marginal incomes:homeless people who are rehoused Tony Warnes, Maureen Crane and Sarah Coward University of Sheffield, Sheffield, England European Research Conference: Homelessness and Poverty Paris, 18 September 2009
Aims of the FOR-HOME studyTo produce authoritative and longitudinal information about: (a) theexperiences of homeless people who are resettled, and (b) thefactors that influence the outcomes.To assess the relative contributions to settledness, tenancysustainment and achieved independence of: * the resettled person’s characteristics * the resettlement preparation and follow-up support * the condition and amenities of the accommodation * events and experiences post-resettlement Funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council
Sample and data collection Sample of 400 single homeless people in two clusters: London, and Nottinghamshire / Yorkshire. Resettled into permanent accommodation by six homelessness sector organisations. Broadly representative of those resettled by the organisations in 2006. Semi-structured interviews immediately before being resettled, and after 6 and 18 months. Interviews from June 2007 to November 2009. Key-worker completed questionnaire at baseline. Information collected includes: accommodation histories; education, training and employment; personal problems; income and expenditure; use of time; family and social networks; help and support before and after moving.
Aims of the presentationTo describe and evaluate the experience of being resettled fromhostels into independent accommodation for homeless people on avery low income. The presentation will: Outline the United Kingdom policy and service provision context The characteristics of the study respondents The difficulties of setting up a new tenancy The respondents’ income and changes since moving How they managed financially and adjusted to paying rent and bills
The policyand service provision contextsPhoto ‘Leeds high density housing’ by Lynne Kirton
Homelessness policies andinterventions:# Prevention# Alleviation# Restoration, recovery, return to self-reliance and independent living
The policy and service provision contextNon-profit homeless sector organisations managehostels for homeless people. The places are funded(largely) by the state:# Capital element by occasional grant programmes# Revenue element by (a) Housing Benefit, a socialsecurity benefit, and (b) Supporting People, a housing-plus-support budget. Both are administered by localauthorities.
The policy contextThe UK government’s aim is to change homeless people’shostels from ‘place(s) of last resort (to) centres of excellenceand choice which positively change lives’. From 2005, theHostels Capital Improvements Programme (HCIP) provided£90m of capital funding over three years to rationalise,modernise and change the functions of hostels. From April2008, HCIP was succeeded by the three-year Places ofChange Programme with a budget of £80m. ‘The purpose ofthe programme is to help (hostel residents) to move on tosustainable independent living’ (DCLG 2006: 5).Source: Department of Communities and Local Government 2006. Places of Change: Tackling homelessnessthrough the Hostels Capital Improvement Programme. DCLG, London
The role of hostels and moving on Hostels are important as temporary accommodation for people who become homeless. Hostel residents receive help with addressing their problems and rebuilding their lives. In the past, people remained in hostels for years as there were no resettlement programmes. Now some people remain in hostels longer than needed because of a lack of move-on accommodation.
Costs of state support for people in hostels who are ready to be rehousedThe average weekly rent for this group* is £107 and theaverage Supporting People cost is £206. The total cost isover £227,500 per week or £11,800,000 per year.If the same people were living in housing association bedsitswith floating support the average rent would be £54.32 andfloating support £42.58 a week. The total cost for the same727 people would be under £70,500 per week or £3,700,000per year. The difference is more than £8.1 million.* 727 people needing low support accommodation in 76 London hostels for homeless peopleSource: Homeless Link 2004. No Room to Move, Homeless Link, London, p. 7. Seehttp://www.homeless.org.uk/policyandinfo/research/archive/noroomtomove.pdf
The respondents’ characteristics400 respondents: 74% men; 26% women 56% in London; 44% in Nottingham / Leeds / Sheffield 24% aged 16-24; 62% aged 25-49; 14% aged 50+ 60% White British / Irish; 40% other ethnic groups 18% homeless up to 12 months; 14% homeless 10+ years Most reliant on social security benefits: only 4% working full-time and 5% part-time
Respondents’ problems and housing experiences 18% literacy difficulties 37% physical health problems 62% mental health problems in last five years 33% alcohol problems in last five years 56% used illegal drugs in last five years 45% had debts 52% previously lived alone in a tenancy; 33% for 2+ years
Readiness to move Most felt ready to move – only 1 per cent had doubts. Many had worries about moving and wondered if they would cope – 25% thought they might have problems with finances and paying bills; 19% with loneliness; and 12% with occupying their time. Other concerns: the practicalities of moving and furnishing the accommodation; staying off drink or drugs and away from other users; coping alone without support from hostel staff.
Difficulties of setting up new tenancy Most moved to unfurnished accommodation – but had no furniture or bedding Once offered a tenancy, 22% had to move very quickly (within 7 days), and another 28% within 14 days. 19% had 30+ days to prepare 80% received grant or loan to help them set up home – Community Care Grant, Budgeting Loan, small grants from charities or homelessness organisations If moved quickly, insufficient time for grants to come through. If working, not entitled to CCG or Budgeting Loan
The resettlement accommodation 46% rehoused in local authority housing; 41% housing association tenancies; 13% private-rented accommodation. Many had no contact with relatives or friends, or they were unable to provide practical or financial help with the move. Some had help from hostel and resettlement staff with furnishing the accommodation, sorting out the utility connections and with the actual move, but others received little or no help. At the time of moving, 57% had no bed and 67% no cooker Several were without heating or electricity when they first moved.
Levels and sourcesof income Social Housing, Lenton, Nottingham
Income change from baseline to 6 monthsIncome change £ per week Number %Decrease 0.1-9.9 53 15.4 10-29.9 25 7.2 30+ 25 7.2No change 0 36 10.4Increase 0.1-9.9 81 23.5 10-29.9 59 17.1 30+ 66 19.1Total 345 100
Reasons for changes1. Interruptions to benefits: administrative hiccups‘Just before moving my Incapacity Benefit was stopped so Iappealed and won the appeal in November. Am waiting to receivethe backdated money (about £2,000)’‘When I first moved in my benefits stopped as I changed areas.Now been reinstated.’‘Should be getting £114 a week DLA but it’s been stopped. X (myhousing officer) didn’t fill in my DLA form and send it in on time – itstopped a few weeks ago.’2. Interruptions to benefits: changes in circumstancesWhen I was pregnant, I was on income support. Now I am no longerpregnant, this has caused problems. HB was stopped in August2008. Income support stopped in August. HB has still not beenreinstated. JSA started end of November 2008.Was getting £73.80 a week income support and HB. Now get astudent loan and have to pay full rent
Reasons for changes3. Interruptions to benefits: reassessments‘Was getting JSA, but this stopped as I’m unable to work. I am toget Income Support (£59 a week), but not until they have verifiedthat I’ve been in the country for five years (I’ve been here six).They are still checking – won’t get any money for two weeks.’4. Interruptions to benefits: not following the rules‘About 2 months after I moved in, they stopped my benefits as Ididn’t tell them that I had changed address.’‘Was on Job Seekers Allowance but this stopped at Christmasbecause I missed signing on (I was ill and had a kidney stone).Was told that my claim is closed because I didn’t sign on.’‘Sometimes my benefits are stopped if I miss my signing on day – Ihate the Job Centre. They are stopped for one week and thenreinstated.’
Reasons for changes5. Having marginal, insecure, unstable jobs‘Was on Income Support when I moved in, then I got ajob in Sep 08. Was then made redundant in Dec 08, soam now on Job Seeker’s Allowance.’‘Got a job from Sep 07 until Nov/Dec 07 – an agency jobin a factory – night shift – 8 and 3 hour shifts a day.Finished in Dec 07 and am now back on JSA.’‘Started part-time work four weeks ago but haven’t beenpaid anything yet. Was supposed to be paid last Fridaybut wasn’t, so I’m not getting any income until I get paidfrom my job.’
Budgeting and financial problems Had to get accustomed to paying for utilities (in hostel, most paid small service charge) 43% had no problems budgeting and making their money last, 28% had problems ‘frequently’, 29% ‘occasionally’.Financial difficulties:… the need to furnish the accommodation… coping with lack of household equipment (take-away meals, using launderettes)… paying rent, utility bills and debts… spending on non-essentials or on alcohol or drugs… financially supporting children
Rents Varied greatly, from £47 to £300 per week Private-rented accommodation: rents two to four times higher For 46% of the respondents, Housing Benefit (housing subsidy) paid all the rent 43% paid a proportion of their rent 11% paid all the rent themselves
Rent arrears During the first 6 months, 48% had rent arrears, 12% had arrears of £500+. At 6 months after being rehoused, 22% had rent arrears. Only one-half were paying back the arrears. 14% had been threatened with eviction for rent arrears. Many early arrears due to housing subsidy administration problems. Continuation of arrears due to personal factors, e.g. respondent neglected to pay rent or comply with social security benefit rules, or changes in their circumstances such as started work.
Utility payments Most respondents responsible for electricity, gas and water payments. Various payment methods used: 3/6 monthly bills; ‘pay- as-you-use’ schemes; weekly, 2-weekly or monthly payments. 63% coped well with utility payments. Many preferred ‘pay-as-you-use’ schemes, and became accustomed to making regular payments when received their Social Security benefits. 37% had problems with utility payments, and at 6 months 25% had utility debts. Only a few paying back the debts.
Income and essential and discretionary expenditure at six months (£per week): three cases 2 On Income 3 On Job 1 In-work Support and Seeker’s Income and items of expenditure and earning DLA Allowance Income +225.75 +97.00 +60.00 Rent -–96.25 0.00 0.00 Electricity, gas, water -–24.80 -–17.00 -–23.00 Council tax -–19.00 0.00 0.00 Travel -–15.75 -–10.00 -–13.80 Balance (discretionary income) 69.95 70.00 23.20 Note: DLA Disability Living Allowance
Debts at 6 months 60Percentage of respondents 41 40 25 20 14 9 6 4 0 none Up to 500 >500-1000 >1000-5000 >5000 amount unknown Amount of debts (£s)
Characteristics of those with debtsDebts at 6 months were most common among those who were: Unemployed or working only part-time In private-rented accommodation Had been homeless 5 years or less Had recent histories of alcohol or drug problems Had debts at the time resettledNo difference between:… men and women… London and Notts/Yorks sub-samples
Debts by type of accommodation 90 73 75Percentage with debts 60 59 60 54 44 46 44 45 45 30 15 0 ity t io n r d Al l or c ia dlo uth so l an la as te ca g va Lo s in Pr i Hou When resettled After 6 months
Comparison of national and FOR-HOME prevalence of debts by age groups 70 64 61 61 60 58 56 Ratio: For-Home % to National %Percentage of people with debts 50 47 48 47 1.8 1.7 40 37 1.6 1.5 30 1.4 22 1.3 20 1.2 1.1 10 1.0 18-24 25-34 35-44 45-64 65+ 0 18-24 25-34 35-44 45-54 55+ Age groups (years) For-Home study (344 respondents at 6 months) Bank of England 2006 survey (580 people in rented accommodation)
How settled and independent after 6 months? 87% still in original accommodation, 3% moved to new tenancy, only 4% are known to be homeless again (no contact with 4% and the rest in prison, died or in rehab.). Most on low incomes. Some have found ways to ‘survive’ and have a routine – pay bills, then buy food, and then buy things for their home. 16% reduced alcohol use and 27% drug use since moving – cannot afford habit as priority given to bills. A few (18 people) who were unemployed when resettled working at 6 months. Several others looking for work.
Has the ‘restore to independent living’ policy been sufficiently thought through, and is it reasonable? It is too early to make a firm judgement, but several aspects of resettlement cause avoidable problems: Many people are very much ‘on their own’, have no furniture at the time of moving, and have debts. For many, the move is a difficult task. Many experience a big change in housing-related support, from a great deal while in hostels to little or none after moving. Many organisations have no funding to provide tenancy support. There are a worrying number of cases of interruptions in benefit income as a consequence of the move, at a time when those being resettled face exceptional expenditure. Although most were still housed at 6 months, many were struggling financially. More information will be available once the 18 month interviews have been completed.
Thanks to …All the respondents who have participated in this study over anextraordinarily long time.Ruby Fu, Camilla Mercer and Louise Joly who have helpedmassively with running the project and coding the data.The freelance interviewers – Gary Bellamy, Paul Gilsenan, LouiseJoly and John Miles.Members of the Management Committee: David Fisher(Broadway), Caroline Day and Jennifer Monfort (Centrepoint),Peter Radage and Rachel Harding (Framework), Julie Robinsonand Tony Beech (St Anne’s), Simon Hughes and George Miller (StMungo’s), and John Crowther and Debra Ives (Thames Reach),and to all their colleagues who have been Link Workers or haveotherwise assisted with recruitment and tracking.
Contact details Tony Warnes: firstname.lastname@example.org Maureen Crane: email@example.com Sarah Coward: firstname.lastname@example.org/sisa/research/fields/homeless