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 (e.g. 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.
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government introduced a Homelessness Case Level Information Classification (H-CLIC) in April 2018 to coincide with the commencement of the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.
H-CLIC collects case level data and provides more detailed information on the causes and effects of homelessness than has been collected in the past. The first set of statistics since commencement of the Homelessness Reduction Act on 3 April 2018 and the first statistical release using Homelessness Case Level Information Collection (H-CLIC) data was on the 13 December 2018 and is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/statutory-homelessness-in-england-april-to-june-2018
The Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 places new legal duties on English councils so that everyone who is homeless or at risk of homelessness will have access to meaningful help, irrespective of their priority need status, as long as they are eligible for assistance. The Act amends part VII of the Housing Act 1996.
The most recent statutory homelessness statistics for England are available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/homelessness-statistics
In Wales, Local Authorities are bound by similar 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/statistics-and-research/homelessness/?lang=en
The National Assembly for Wales has enacted new homelessness provisions which can be found at: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/anaw/2014/7/contents/enacted. In particular, section 66 details a new prevention duty.
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: https://www.communities-ni.gov.uk/publications/northern-ireland-housing-statistics-2017-18
Scottish homelessness statistics are available at: https://www.gov.scot/collections/homelessness-statistics
Key similarities and differences
Because of the differences in collection methods, and in the legislative duties to homeless households in Scotland following the 2001 homelessness legislation, care needs to be taken in comparing homelessness statistics across the 4 countries.
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, led to increasing proportions of homeless households being assessed as in priority need and from 31 December 2012 this test has been abolished. As a result, the definition of priority need was therefore broader in Scotland than in other parts of the UK. As a direct consequence of these changes, significantly higher proportions of all homeless and priority homeless households in Scotland are single person households. In addition, the time scale for threatened with homelessness is two months in Scotland compared to 28 days in England.
In England and Wales, analyses for ‘households accepted by Local Authorities as owed a main homelessness duty’ are roughly equivalent to Scottish analyses for unintentionally homeless households [and in priority need for those assessed prior to 31st December 2012].
The report UK homelessness: 2005 to 2018 was published in September 2019 and is an assessment of the comparability and coherence of existing UK government homelessness data sources.
Also published in September 2019, the GSS Homelessness Interactive Tool allows users to explore how homelessness is defined across the four UK countries and explore an applicants’ process through each of the different homelessness systems. It enables users to visualise the different definitions of homelessness currently being used for official statistics and how these compare. The tool was released as an initial product, to allow for further refinement based on user feedback, and will be updated later this year.