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ENGLISH HOMELESSNESS STATS: 1ST & 2ND QUARTERS OF 1997

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This bulletin provides information on the operation of the homelessness provisions of the 1985 and 1996 Housing Act...
This bulletin provides information on the operation of the homelessness provisions of the 1985 and 1996 Housing Acts. The

provisions in the 1996 Act came into force on 20 January 1997 and

broadly continued the circumstances in which local authorities had

statutory duties but introduced a significant change to the way in

which they were required to discharge these duties.

Decisions taken under the homelessness legislation

In the quarter ending June 1997, local authorities made a total

of 59,350 decisions on applications for housing from households

eligible under the homelessness provisions of the 1985 and 1996

Housing Acts. This is some 2,790 (4 per cent) less than in the first

quarter of 1997 (62,140). The number of decisions in the first half

of 1997 is around 10 per cent below the average in recent years.

Homeless acceptances

In the June quarter of 1997, local authorities accepted some

24,930 households as meeting the conditions of being eligible for

assistance, unintentionally homeless and in priority need, under the

homelessness provisions of the 1985 and 1996 Housing Acts; this is a

reduction of some 2,340 (9 per cent) on the first quarter (27,270).

These totals are around 10 per cent less than the corresponding

quarters of 1996. The latest figure is some 13,220 (35 per cent)

below the peak quarter for acceptances - the March quarter of 1992 -

when 38,150 households were accepted.

Acceptances fell in nearly all regions of England but the

decline over the last twelve months is largely the result of the

falls in London and the North East, North West and West Midlands

regions. The latest quarter's acceptance figure for London, which

continues to account for around a quarter of all acceptances, shows a

particularly large drop but this partly reflects exercises to clear

backlogs of 1985 Act cases carried out by some Boroughs in the

quarter ending March 1997.

Acceptances by category of priority need

Just over half of households accepted during the March (56 per

cent) and June (57 per cent) quarters of 1997 had dependent children

and a further 11 per cent included a pregnant woman. There has been

little change in these percentages over the past three years.

Reasons for homelessness

Twenty-seven per cent of acceptances in the June 1997 quarter

(28 per cent in the March quarter) arose because parents, relatives

or friends (mostly parents) were no longer able, or willing, to

accommodate them. This proportion fell from around forty to thirty

per cent between 1992 and 1995 and has remained largely unchanged

since then.

A further twenty-five per cent of acceptances in both quarters

were because of the breakdown of a relationship with a partner. The

proportion of acceptances resulting from mortgage arrears was around

half its peak level - twelve per cent during 1991.

Households accommodated

The number of households in accommodation arranged by local

authorities under the homelessness provisions of the Housing Act 1985

fell by around a third between September 1992 (when it peaked at

65,500) and December 1994. There has been a further slight fall since

then, although the total number accommodated under the provisions of

this and the 1996 Act at the end of June 1997 (42,020) was little

different from the figure at the end of the two previous quarters.

Within the overall total there has been a fall, over the last six

months, in the numbers of households accommodated by London

authorities (which account for just over half of the total) with an

offsetting increase in the rest of the country.

Just over a half of households accommodated at the end of June

1997 were accommodated under the provisions of the Housing Act 1996,

up from around a third at the end of March.

The total number of households in bed and breakfast

accommodation at the end of March was 3,940, of which 3,110 were

housed under Housing Act 1996 provisions. The total was little

different from the two previous quarters but some 600 (14 per cent)

less than the average for the 4 quarters before that. The current

total is now less than one third of the peak level at the end of

September 1991 (13,550).

Nine per cent of households (11 per cent in London) accommodated

at the end of June were in bed and breakfast. These proportions

compare with peaks of 47 per cent (England) and 59 per cent (London)

in the quarter ending June 1987.

The number of homeless households in hostel accommodation

(including women's refuges) at the end of June was 9,880, - 7,090

under Housing Act 1996 provisions. There has been little change to

this total in recent years.

At the end of June 1997 some 9,160 households that had been

accepted as homeless under the two Acts were 'homeless at home' while

awaiting the provision of accommodation (Table 5).

NOTES

Legislation

1. Part VII of the Housing Act 1996, which came into force on 20

January 1997, places 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.

2. The priority need group includes households which include

dependent children or a pregnant woman and people who are vulnerable

in some way eg. because of mental illness or physical disability.

Where a main duty is owed the authority must either provide

sufficient assistance to enable the household to obtain suitable

private accommodation in the district (which during the period of

this bulletin could have been available for a period of as little as

6 months) or, if this is not available, the authority must secure

accommodation for the household for at least 2 years. In either case

the household will be placed on the housing register and considered

for the allocation of a social tenancy. Where households are found

to be intentionally homeless or not in a priority need group the

authority must provide advice and assistance to help them find their

own accommodation.

3. In order to strengthen the safety net for homeless people,

secondary legislation was introduced from 1 September (SI 1997 No

1741) which requires that before a local authority can discharge a

main homeless duty by assisting a household to obtain accommodation

itself in the private sector, the authority must be satisfied that

the accommodation will be available for at least 2 years. From 1

November, new regulations (SI 1997 No 1902, made under Part VI of the

1996 Act) will require local housing authorities to add people owed a

main homelessness duty as a new category of people to whom reasonable

preference must be given in the allocation of social tenancies though

the housing register.

4. Part VII of the 1996 Act replaced Part III of the Housing act

1985, which continues to apply in respect of homelessness

applications made before 20 January 1997. A proportion of the

homelessness cases for which decisions were made during the first

half of 1997 are cases to which Part III of the Housing Act 1985

applies. The main homelessness duty under the 1985 Act was widely

interpreted by authorities as a duty to secure permanent

accommodation. The duties in respect of applicants found to be

intentionally homeless or not in a priority need group are similar

to those under the 1996 Act.

Information Bulletin

5. An Information Bulletin is usually published on a quarterly

basis to a pre-announced timetable. However, the need for both local

authorities and the Department to make changes to their recording and

processing systems for the new legislation delayed the production of

the Bulletins for the first and second quarters of 1997 (due for

issue in the first halves of June and September respectively on the

usual timetable). It is intended to return to the usual timetable for

the Bulletin for the third quarter of 1997 which is due to be

published on 10 December 1997.

6. The revisions to the legislation have also led to some changes

in the content of the Bulletin tables. In particular, Tables 2 and 3

on acceptances now cover priority need acceptances only; previously a

small number of acceptances' of households not in priority need had

been included. Tables 5 and 6 on households accommodated cover those

accommodated under both the old and new legislation but because of

the different nature of the duties, figures are shown separately for

the old and new legislation.

Source of statistics

7. The figures in this Bulletin are based on quarterly returns

completed by local authorities in England with estimates included for

non-respondents. The latest quarter's figures are based on returns

from 334 out of 357 local authorities (a 94 per cent response rate).

Non-responders include 6 of the 14 Inner London boroughs and so some

caution in interpretation of the figures for London is therefore

necessary. The response rate for the first quarter is 97 per cent

(346 out of 358 returns - Brighton and Hove merged with effect from 1

April 1997). The missing returns include 5 of the 14 Inner London

boroughs.

8. Further details may be obtained from Brian Turk, DOE, Zone 1/E1,

Eland House, Bressenden Place, London SW1E 5DU, telephone 0171 890

3332)

9. The next Bulletin, covering statistics for the third quarter of

1997, is scheduled to be published on 10 December 1997.

10.

10. Full charts and tables related to this bulletin are available on request from LGCnet. Tel 0171 833 7324/5 and we shall fax you a copy.

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