Home and away: What do we know about the rise in homeless families moved away from their local area?
23 May 2016
You may have heard that some homeless families are being sent from London to other towns and cities. Families coming to their council for help, are not just faced with the horrific situation of losing their home, they’re losing all that is familiar to them too.
But until now, we didn’t know the full picture of what’s happening. It’s true that more and more homeless London households are living in temporary accommodation that is in a different area than where they were living before. In fact, more than three times as many as just five years ago.
But when something unfolds rapidly (as this has), it’s hard to get a sense of what’s really going on. The statistics we have don’t show how far people are being moved: households could be moved from London to Birmingham, or just across a road into a neighbouring London borough. They also don’t show the nature of these moves: are they by choice or are they forced; are they suitable for these households or potentially dangerous?
So to get a sense of this, we analysed new data and spoke with some of the families and councils directly involved. Our analysis is illustrative. But it confirms that a shift is occurring, and that councils around the country need to be thinking about how to do things differently.
Today we’re publishing our full analysis. Over the next few days we’ll be discussing the findings in more detail. Firstly, how often does this happen, and where are families being sent?
How often are homeless households moved away?
We found that households are placed in accommodation out of their home area far more regularly than often reported.
This now happens as an ‘everyday’ part of homeless provision. In the 12 months to June last year, almost half of placements were to somewhere other than the households’ home borough.
Where are people being placed?
Despite concerns about an exodus from London, ninety percent of out of area placements made by London councils are still within the capital.
And councils seem to be bearing in mind the potential impact of a long distance move. Of all the out of London moves, 86% were to counties that adjoin London boroughs.
Looking at all placements, almost three quarters (74%) were to a local authority that is next to the one people were moved from.
What can we conclude?
So it’s clear that most councils are trying hard to find households places to stay closer to home. And that there doesn’t appear to have been a mass movement of families from the capital, yet. In a time of budget pressures, welfare cuts, and shortage of affordable housing, this is no mean feat.
But we also need to recognise that out of area moves for homeless families are becoming an everyday occurrence. And in a way that is unprecedented.
As long as the move is suitable for the particular household, that’s ok. But as we found out, that’s not always the case. And even ‘suitable’, short distance moves can leave people isolated and struggling. Tomorrow we’ll set out some of these impacts, and show how councils can make a few relatively small changes that will help to keep homeless children and families safe.
But later this week we will look at why this is happening, and why we’re worried that it might get even more difficult for councils to find suitable places for homeless families in the future. Once the benefit cap is lowered in the autumn, and even more council homes are sold off to pay for the extension of the right to buy, it will become even harder for councils across the country. As we’ll set out, the government needs to recognise these pressures and give councils the resources to help families in need.