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
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.
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
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.
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).
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
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.
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
8. Further details may be obtained from Brian Turk, DOE, Zone 1/E1,
Eland House, Bressenden Place, London SW1E 5DU, telephone 0171 890
9. The next Bulletin, covering statistics for the third quarter of
1997, is scheduled to be published on 10 December 1997.
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.