Known unknowns: What’s the true scale of youth homelessness?


The lack of coherent national data on homelessness makes measuring the true scale of youth homelessness a real challenge.

Unless we know the true scale, we cannot know how best to tackle it nor ensure effective allocation of funding so that young people receive the support they need.

Most data currently collected by governments across the UK relate to the statutory homeless; those found eligible for help under the Main Homelessness Duty. However, this provides only a limited picture of the scale of homelessness.

Centrepoint commissioned research by Cambridge University to produce an up-to-date estimate of the number of young people aged 16 to 24 experiencing homelessness during the course of a year.

Download Centrepoint’s policy briefing

Key findings:

* Over 83,000 homeless young people have been accommodated by local authorities or homelessness services during 2013-14

* Nine per cent of UK young people have slept in an ‘outside’ place in the last year, including on the street, in car parks or parks, because they had nowhere else to go

* 26 per cent of UK young people have slept in an unsafe place because they had nowhere else to go. This equates to an estimated 1.3m young people aged 16 to 24

* 35 per cent of UK young people have experience of sofa surfing which would suggest over a million nationally

These findings show that the number of young people experiencing homelessness or failing to access the housing they need is much higher than official figures suggest.

What needs to happen next:

* All local authorities must accurately track the scale of need so that it can be more effectively addressed

* Central and local government should work together to ensure that all homelessness data must be collected in a way that can be broken down by age, including homelessness prevention statistics collected by local authorities

* The Department for Education should update the Children In Need (CIN) census to include data on homelessness so that homeless young people who are supported by children’s services can be identified

* The Government should centrally collate data from local authorities about the number of young people receiving housing related support services – as was previously available through the Supporting People database

* The sector needs to work together to compile sector wide data about the young people they support, building on the positive steps that are being made with the Youth Homelessness Databank

Download Cambridge University’s executive summary

Download Cambridge University’s full research report

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