People who are homeless

Shelter is a pre-requisite for health. People who are disadvantaged suffer both from a lack of housing and from poor quality housing.

Shelter is a pre-requisite for health.  People who are disadvantaged suffer both from a lack of housing and from poor quality housing. 

People who are homeless or living in temporary accommodation suffer from high levels of health inequality which may include: high mortality rates; higher rates of depression and anxiety and some major mental disorders; higher prevalence of bronchitis, tuberculosis, arthritis, skin diseases, and infections, problems related to alcohol and substance misuse; and higher rates of hospital admissions.


The Definition of Homelessness

A general definition is that someone is homeless in law, if:

  • They do not have accommodation that they have a legal right to occupy.
  • They have accommodation that is not accessible and/or physically available to them (and their household).
  • They have accommodation but it would not be reasonable for them to continue to live in it.
  • It would not be reasonable for someone to continue to live in their home, for example, if it was likely to lead to violence against them (or a member of their family) or if the property was in such a state of disrepair that it was not habitable.


Homelessness Act 2002

The Homelessness Act 2002 made changes to the arrangements for local authorities to ensure that they had a duty to protect more people.

Key principles of the legislation were securing settled homes for households in priority need and also helping, where possible, those who were not considered to be a priority.

It was also intended that housing authorities would offer more choice to homeless people and others in housing need through appropriate lettings policies and to ensure that advice and information were made available to everyone in the locality. 

The Homelessness Act 2002 also placed a legal obligation on all Local Housing Authorities to carry out a review of homelessness in their areas and, in consultation with local partners and stakeholders, to develop a strategy for tackling and preventing it. 

The most recent national strategies and legislative requirements that have shaped the Homelessness Strategy include:

Laying the Foundations:  A Housing Strategy for England 2011

No One Left Out: Communities Ending Rough Sleeping (Nov 2008)

Vision to end rough sleeping: No Second Night Out nationwide (July 2011)

Supplementary Guidance on the homelessness changes in the Localism Act 2011 on the Homelessness (Suitability of Accommodation) (England) Order 2012


Northumberland Homelessness Strategy 2011-12

Following consultation with partners, stakeholders and staff to inform the refresh of the 2011-2012 strategy the following priorities were agreed for the development and delivery of homelessness and housing options services in Northumberland:


1.  Reducing homelessness through prevention

The primary focus of the housing options and homelessness team is to prevent homeless. Prevention initiatives have been developed and implemented to enable households to remain in their current home where appropriate or to provide options to enable a planned and timely move to help sustain independent living.

2.  Reducing the use of temporary accommodation and improving the quality

Work has been carried out to improve the quality of temporary accommodation including increased security and safety measure. The council’s housing options and homelessness team has the responsibility for placing clients in suitable accommodation when a duty is owed. People are placed in temporary accommodation when they have no other suitable alternative. The aim is for clients to stay in this accommodation for as short a term as possible before they secure a permanent tenancy.

3.  Tackling youth homelessness

Most young people are made homeless due to a breakdown in family relationships. Family and friend eviction is Northumberland’s second highest reason for homelessness. In most cases, the family home is the best home for children and young people. There will always be however rare cases where the family home is not safe for a young person and the young person has to leave in an emergency. A specialised post of Youth Homelessness Officer was created to sit within the Homelessness and Housing Options Service. This recognised the particular issues around youth homelessness, including the need for improved joint working with the 16+ team.


4.  Strengthening Partnership Working and Service User Involvement

Tackling homelessness cannot be achieved by the council on its own and, working with partners is essential to our success in providing a comprehensive homelessness and housing options service. Involving service users will help us to develop the service that will most suit the client.


Performance Indicators

The Housing Options and Homelessness Service continues to work toward achieving successful outcomes against the housing performance indicators for homelessness which are:

  • Number of successful outcomes for homelessness support and prevention funded through the homelessness grant
  • Average length of stay for occupants in the temporary accommodation owned, leased or accessed by a Service Level Agreement
  • The percentage of satisfied customers who have accessed the housing options and homelessness service
  • Average length of time to process a homeless application to decision. The target is currently 28 days. 


Statistical Information

Northumberland Housing Options and Homelessness Service received 1347 applications between April 2011 and March 2012, an increase of 20% compared to the same period in 2010/11. 55% of the applications were successfully dealt with before the household became homeless, however, the number of households where the council has a statutory duty to rehouse increased by 22% from 188 in 2010/11 to 229 in 2011/12. It is anticipated that this trend will continue to rise in the current economic climate.


Profile of households being accepted as homeless

The quarterly data returns on those households accepted as homeless reported to government provide information on household type and age of the lead applicant. The main points from this information are summarised below:

  • Household Type - In 2011/12 67% of all acceptances were for households with or expecting dependent children. This is consistent with 2010/11. Of those households with dependent children 71% were lone parents, with the majority (93%) being female lone parents.
  • Age – The majority of those accepted as homeless (122) are aged between 25 to 44, which is 53% of all acceptances

However, from 2010/11 to 2011/12 there has been a 46% decrease in the number of 16 and 17 year olds accepted as homeless. This is a positive change and reflects the focused prevention work and the introduction of the Young Person Protocol with Children’s Services