Homelessness: The Challenge of         Prevention   FEANTSA seminar, Brussels, 6 June 2008   Hal Pawson, Heriot-Watt Unive...
Presentation Overview•   UK legal context•   Recent trends in homelessness numbers•   Central govt instigation of LA preve...
Summary of UK Legal Framework onHomelessness• Local authorities responsible for assessing claims of  homelessness and secu...
Recent Trends in Homelessness Acceptances andHome Ownership Affordability, England• Historically, homeless                ...
Homelessness Acceptances – Longer Term Trend                                                        Year on Year Change in...
Central Govt Instigation of Local AuthorityHomelessness Prevention• Homelessness Act 2002 obliged LAs to produce  ‘prevent...
Categorising homelessness prevention• Primary prevention:  – Action(s) to help a household avoid homelessness    occurring...
Overview of prevention activitiesInitiative               Target group(s)                                        Typology ...
Facilitating Access to Private Tenancies• Aim: to provide financial and/or practical help to enable someone  threatened wi...
Family Mediation•   Aim: to conciliate between young people and their parents to enable    the former to remain in/return ...
Sanctuary Schemes• Aim: to enable women to remain in the family home even when  threat of violence places them at risk of ...
Tenancy Sustainment Support• Secondary or ‘precautionary’ homelessness prevention - v.  common among LAs in England and Sc...
The Role of Prevention Initiatives in CuttingHomelessness Numbers• Only limited statistical evidence demonstrating effecti...
Homelessness prevention impacts                                                     Homelessness stocks and flows 1997-200...
Conclusions•   Step change in LA approach to fulfilling homelessness duties•   Emphasizes pro-active efforts to address cu...
Further readingResearch reportsPawson, H., Donohoe, A., Munro, M., Wager, F. & Netto, G. (2006) Investigating Tenancy   Su...
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Homelessness: The Challenge of Prevention

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Presentation given by Hal Pawson, Heriot Watt University at a FEANTSA seminar on "Strategies to end homelessness: Elements of conflict and cooperation at local level", hosted by the Committee of the Regions, June 2008

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Homelessness: The Challenge of Prevention

  1. 1. Homelessness: The Challenge of Prevention FEANTSA seminar, Brussels, 6 June 2008 Hal Pawson, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, Scotland
  2. 2. Presentation Overview• UK legal context• Recent trends in homelessness numbers• Central govt instigation of LA prevention activity• Overview of prevention techniques• Detailed consideration of selected prevention techniques• Weighing up impact of prevention initiatives• Conclusions• Draws on studies undertaken for central govt. in England and Scotland School of the Built Environment
  3. 3. Summary of UK Legal Framework onHomelessness• Local authorities responsible for assessing claims of homelessness and securing tenancies for households judged as: – Legally homeless – no suitable accom available to occupy – Homeless through no fault of their own – In ‘priority need’ – i.e. household contains a pregnant woman, a child or a ‘vulnerable person’ (e.g. individual over pension age, with serious medical condition or disability)• Households assessed as ‘unintentionally homeless and in priority need’ termed ‘homelessness acceptances’• LA duty to provide temp accommodation until permanent tenancy (usually social rented) becomes available School of the Built Environment
  4. 4. Recent Trends in Homelessness Acceptances andHome Ownership Affordability, England• Historically, homeless 7 160,000 acceptance trend in tandem Annual no of households accepted as homeless & in priority with home ownership 6 140,000 Ratio of average incomes to average house prices affordability 120,000• Relationship disrupted since 5 2003 when LA homelessness 100,000 strategies introduced 4 need 80,000• By mid-2007 acceptances 3 down by >50% in 4 years – 60,000 lower than since early 1980s 2 Affordability ratio (left hand 40,000 scale) 1 Homelessness acceptances (right hand scale) 20,000 0 0 97 98 99 00 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 19 19 19 20 20 20 20 20 20 20 20 School of the Built Environment
  5. 5. Homelessness Acceptances – Longer Term Trend Year on Year Change in Homelessness Acceptances in England, 1980-2006 15 Year on year change in homelessness 10 5 acceptances (%) 0 -5 -10 -15 -20 -25 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 School of the Built Environment
  6. 6. Central Govt Instigation of Local AuthorityHomelessness Prevention• Homelessness Act 2002 obliged LAs to produce ‘prevention focused’ strategies. First wave issued 2003• National targets set to: – Eliminate use of B&B hotels for families (by 2004) – Halve 2005 homeless temp accommodation placements by 2010• Guidance has advocated: – specific forms of homelessness prevention – e.g. family mediation – new approaches to homelessness work – e.g. being more pro- active in seeking to avert a household’s loss of accommodation• £500 million earmarked for grant funding to underwrite prevention activities – 2002-09• LAs highly receptive to Govt agenda School of the Built Environment
  7. 7. Categorising homelessness prevention• Primary prevention: – Action(s) to help a household avoid homelessness occurring in the first place (where there is already a specific threat – e.g. eviction date) – Usually triggered by an approach to the LA on the part of an individual claiming homelessness• Secondary (or precautionary) prevention: – Action(s) to help a household avoid possible future homelessness (as yet no specific threat) – Usually based on a local authority’s judgement that a household is ‘at high risk’ School of the Built Environment
  8. 8. Overview of prevention activitiesInitiative Target group(s) Typology category Primary Secondary/ precautionaryHousing advice (a) private tenants seeking to retain existing • tenancies, (b) people seeking to access private tenanciesFacilitating access to (a) ‘potentially priority homeless’ households not •private tenancies yet formally assessed, (b) priority homeless ineligible for social housing, Non-priority homeless aged >25Family mediation Young people excluded from the family home •Sanctuary schemes Women threatened with homelessness by threat • of violence from former partnerTenancy sustainment Social sector tenants judged ‘at risk’ of being •support unable to sustain a tenancySupported transitional (a) Young people aged 16-18 (incl. those •accommodation previously in local authority care); (b) Former rough sleepers and others discharged from institutionsHousing education Secondary school-age children • School of the Built Environment
  9. 9. Facilitating Access to Private Tenancies• Aim: to provide financial and/or practical help to enable someone threatened with homelessness to secure a private tenancy• Policy components: – LA (or contractor agency) provides rent deposit guarantee or bond – Sometimes offer landlord ‘bounty payments’ or other incentives – e.g: • ‘Fast tracked’ Housing Benefit claims • Property insurance • Guarantee to meet rent shortfalls through changes of tenancy – Willingness to bridge gap between rent charge and standard HB payable – Requirement for participating landlords to notify LA where tenancy at risk or terminated• Challenges for LAs – Development of closer liaison and trust with private landlords – Recognition and overcoming of landlord inclination to avoid ‘risky’ tenants – Judging what HB shortfall is acceptable – Negotiation of tenancy terms (ideally improving on what would be available through simple market transaction) School of the Built Environment
  10. 10. Family Mediation• Aim: to conciliate between young people and their parents to enable the former to remain in/return to the family home (at least long enough to facilitate planned move)• Mediation provided by homeless casework staff or specialist agency contracted to receive and assist referrals• Challenges for LAs: – Striking appropriate balance between: a) ensuring that false claims of abuse are not made to secure a social rented tenancy and b) avoiding encouraging a young person’s return to former host household if this might place them at risk of violence or abuse – Recognition that effective reconciliation may require several sessions (and, possibly, some ongoing support) – Structuring framework for prioritising housing waiting list applicants to incentivise people in insecure accommodation to wait in orderly queue School of the Built Environment
  11. 11. Sanctuary Schemes• Aim: to enable women to remain in the family home even when threat of violence places them at risk of homelessness• Policy components: – Action usually triggered by homelessness application from woman under threat from former partner – ‘Sanctuary’ provided by installation of security and alarm equipment to boost confidence in ‘staying put’ option – Possibly associated help – e.g. to secure legal injunction banning former partner from making contact• LAs making sanctuary provision assert that few, if any, beneficiaries ever re-apply as homeless• Challenges for LAs: – Encourage women to ‘stay put’ without concealing legal responsibility to rehouse if this is felt too unsafe – Reacting sufficiently rapidly to safeguard victim before irrevocable decision to abandon home School of the Built Environment
  12. 12. Tenancy Sustainment Support• Secondary or ‘precautionary’ homelessness prevention - v. common among LAs in England and Scotland• Services generally include assistance with: – budgeting, benefit claims, self-esteem and employment – accessing specialist help – e.g. addiction counselling – linking into local social networks• Challenges for LAs: – As in any precautionary practice, accurate identification of those seriously at risk if unassisted – Deciding over what period assistance is justified – Demonstrating additionality – to what extent can we be confident that someone ‘assisted to retain their tenancy’ would, in fact, have otherwise become homeless? – Demonstrating cost-effectiveness – individualised support (especially if ongoing for a period) potentially v. expensive School of the Built Environment
  13. 13. The Role of Prevention Initiatives in CuttingHomelessness Numbers• Only limited statistical evidence demonstrating effectiveness of individual prevention initiatives• Likely that these have played a role in reducing acceptances but…• Also significant have been administrative changes in LA homelessness procedures• Many LAs have adopted procedures where a formal homelessness assessment will be undertaken only when ‘prevention options’ have first been explored – legality of this approach highly questionable• LAs accused of unacceptable (and potentially unlawful) ‘gatekeeping’• Consequently, some people at risk of homelessness informally channeled away from an assessment through ‘help’ – e.g. in accessing a private tenancy• While the law facilitates challenges against LA assessment decisions, refusal to conduct an assessment is harder to contest through the courts• But in Scotland LAs more effectively policed through housing inspection regime and regulator sensitivity to ‘gatekeeping’ School of the Built Environment
  14. 14. Homelessness prevention impacts Homelessness stocks and flows 1997-2007, England 140,000No of households (annually/at year end) 120,000 100,000 80,000 60,000 40,000 Homeless households living in temp accom at year end (stock) 20,000 Households accepted as homeless & in priority need annually (flow) 0 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 School of the Built Environment
  15. 15. Conclusions• Step change in LA approach to fulfilling homelessness duties• Emphasizes pro-active efforts to address current housing problems rather than necessarily proceeding direct to statutory assessment• Effectively incorporates more restrictive interpretation of circumstances in which a formal assessment will be undertaken• Changed official policy transmitted through funding and exhortation not legislation• Combined impact of (a) constructive help and (b) gatekeeping has been dramatic reduction in scale of LA ‘homelessness rehousing’ obligations (i.e. homelessness acceptances)• Is helping to facilitate steady reduction in homeless temp accommodation placements, hence saving public money• But achievability of 2010 TA reduction target partly dependent on social housing turnover rate & impact of expanded social housebuilding• Interventions aimed at preventing individual instances of homelessness no substitute for broader action to expand affordable housing provision School of the Built Environment
  16. 16. Further readingResearch reportsPawson, H., Donohoe, A., Munro, M., Wager, F. & Netto, G. (2006) Investigating Tenancy Sustainment in Glasgow; Glagow: Glasgow Housing Association http://www.gha.org.uk/content/mediaassets/doc/full_tenancy_sustainment.pdfPawson, H., Netto, G. Jones, C., Wager, F., Fancy, C. & Lomax, D (2007) Evaluating Homelessness Prevention; London: Communities & Local Government http://www.communities.gov.uk/publications/housing/preventhomelessnessPawson, H., Davidson, E. & Netto, G. (2007) Evaluating Homelessness Prevention Activities in Scotland; Edinburgh: Scottish Executive http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2007/03/26095144/0Good practice guidePawson, H., Netto, G. & Jones, C. (2006) Homelessness Prevention: A Guide to Good Practice; London: Department for Communities & Local Government http://www.communities.gov.uk/documents/housing/pdf/150973Journal articlesPawson, H. (2007) Local authority homelessness prevention in England: Empowering consumers or denying rights? Housing Studies Vol. 22 (6) pp867–883Pawson, H. & Davidson, E. (2008) Radically divergent? Homelessness policy and practice in post-devolution Scotland; European Journal of Housing Policy Vol 8(1) pp39-60 School of the Built Environment

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