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Thursday, May 30, 2024

Harrow council faces funding shortfall amid rising homelessness among young people

North London council need 'up to £900k' to tackle growing homelessness amongst young people

A North London council may need to find more than £900,000 in extra funding to ensure it can provide support in every homeless case, amid a growing number of applications amongst young people. Around 40 per cent of young people threatened with homelessness in the borough are currently not being screened, new research suggests, but the council said it ‘does not recognise’ this terminology. .

Councils are legally required to assess anyone seeking help for homelessness. But figures from youth housing and homelessness charity Centrepoint and WPI Economics show more than a third of 16-24-year-olds who present as homeless across England went unassessed in the year to March 2023.

The research shows that 107 young people presented themselves as homeless to Harrow Council between 2022 and 2023. However, of those 43 (40 per cent) were not assessed to determine how at risk they were. The charity estimates Harrow Council would need a further £650,000 to cover the costs associated with assessment and support, however, that could rise to £932,000 if applicants needed additional help.

The shortfall predictions are based on the unassessed applicants requiring the same level of support as those already screened. But the researchers warn Harrow’s shortfall could rise to £932,000 in a ‘realistic worst-case scenario’, should a higher proportion of people require support. In a more optimistic scenario, the local funding gap drops to £404,000.

The screenings are a statutory duty for local councils. This means issuing a prevention duty, stopping them from becoming homeless if they are deemed to be at risk, or a relief duty, where the authority must help an already homeless applicant secure accommodation for at least six months.

Harrow Council told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) that it doesn’t recognise the term ‘screened’ or at what stage in the process this refers to. Of the 2022/23 applicants, 35 were not eligible for prevention or relief duty from the local authority, according to the council. Reasons for this include refusal to provide necessary information, they were deemed neither homeless nor threatened with homelessness, or not having a valid immigration status.

A council spokesperson said: “Overall, Harrow has the third highest success rate for homelessness preventions in London. Over the last 6 months (23 October – 24 March) we have successfully prevented homelessness of 230 households with a 71 per cent success rate.”

They added: “The success is down to our homelessness reduction strategy, where partnership work with youth services, mental health and other organisations helps address issues which include youth homelessness. We are always looking at ways we can provide the most efficient service and adapt to growing pressure on our service – and we welcome guidance and support from partners and the government.”

Nationally, 120,000 young people presented as homeless in 2022-23, with over 40,000 estimated to have been left without support. It means councils would need a 15 per cent increase in government funding, equating to a shortfall of around £332 million.

Centrepoint said it is ‘deeply concerned’ that councils do not have the required resources to carry out the required number of homeless assessments, and called on the government to ‘address the crisis’. The charity’s Head of policy, research and campaigns, Alicia Walker, said: “Councils have a legal duty to assess anyone who presents as homeless, but we are deeply concerned that they do not have the means to carry out these duties.”

She added: “It’s not good enough that so many young people are not getting the chance of that assessment, let alone accessing support. We can’t just blame councils for this. It’s clear they don’t have the resources to meet the increasing demand for homelessness services, and the Government needs to address this crisis.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) said: “We recognise that young people experiencing homelessness face particular challenges, and we want to ensure that they get the support they need.

“That is why we are spending £1.2 billion over three years to give councils the funding they need to prevent homelessness and help more people sooner, as well as supporting councils with our dedicated youth homelessness advisor roles.”

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