Comparability with other UK homelessness statistics
In England, Part 7 of the Housing Act 1996 and the Homelessness Act 2002 place statutory duties on local housing authorities to provide assistance to people who are homeless or threatened with homelessness. Authorities must consider all applications from people seeking accommodation or assistance in obtaining accommodation. A main homelessness duty is owed where the authority is satisfied that the applicant is eligible for assistance, unintentionally homeless and falls within a priority need group, which are specified in the legislation (eg households with dependent children or a pregnant woman).
Where a main duty is owed, the authority must ensure that suitable accommodation is available for the applicant and his or her household until a settled home becomes available for them. Where households are found to be intentionally homeless or not in priority need, the authority must make an assessment of their housing needs and provide advice and assistance to help them find accommodation for themselves. Where the applicant is found to be intentionally homeless but falls in a priority need category the authority must also ensure that accommodation is available for long enough to give the applicant a reasonable opportunity to find a home.
Data on local authorities' activities in carrying out their statutory homelessness duties are collected on the quarterly P1E return.
The most recent statutory homelessness statistics for England are available at : http://www.communities.gov.uk/housing/housingresearch/housingstatistics/housingstatisticsby/homelessnessstatistics/
In Wales, local authorities are bound by the same statutory duties as those in England. The data is collected on a quarterly local authority level WHO12 return, similar to the P1E form in England. The most recent statutory homelessness statistics for Wales are available at: http://wales.gov.uk/topics/statistics/headlines/housing2011/110818/?lang=en
In Northern Ireland statistics on homelessness are sourced from the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE). Under the Housing (NI) Order 1988, NIHE has a similar statutory responsibility to secure permanent accommodation for households who are unintentionally homeless and in priority need; to secure temporary accommodation in a variety of circumstances and to provide advice and assistance to those who are homeless or threatened with homelessness. The most recent statutory homelessness statistics for Northern Ireland are available at: http://www.dsdni.gov.uk/index/publications/housing_bulletins.htm
Scottish homelessness statistics are available at: http://www.gov.scot/homelessstats
Key similarities and differences
Because of the differences in collection methods and in the legislative duties to homeless households in Scotland following the 2001 housing legislation care needs to be taken in comparing homelessness statistics across the 4 countries.
In England and Wales analyses for 'households accepted by local authorities as owed a main homelessness duty' are equivalent to Scottish analyses for unintentionally homeless households in priority need.
Under the Scottish legislation local authorities have wider duties to assist non-priority homeless households. In addition, a key part of the Scottish legislation, often referred to as the 2012 homelessness commitment, has led, by design, to increasing proportions of homeless households being assessed as being in priority need. As a direct consequence of these changes, significantly higher proportions of all homeless and priority homeless in Scotland are single person households.