Society

An Overview of Homelessness in the United Kingdom

The United Kingdom keeps rates of homelessness relatively at bay with strong social programming.

Strong social programs in the UK have enabled the country to keep homelessness relatively low. Housing policy became a devolved issue in the late 1990s, and all local authorities in the nation are legally mandated to offer 24-hour advice to the homeless or those who stand at risk of becoming homeless within 28 days. The number of homeless individuals has been rising in England since 2010, and there were over 4,000 rough sleepers in 2016. These figures are disputed by homelessness campaigners who report more rough sleepers. In an attempt to reduce homelessness rates, the government backed Homelessness Reduction Bill was passed in early 2017.

Who is Considered to be Homeless?

The legal definition of homelessness in the UK encompasses a range of situations. While most people associate being homeless with rough sleeping, a person can also be classified as homeless even if they have a roof over their head. If one lacks suitable housing or does not have the rights to stay where they are currently located such as a squatter, the individual may be considered homeless. A person who lives in a home where they cannot afford to pay without foregoing basic commodities can also be homeless. Homelessness also affects those living in a boat or a vehicle.

Where are High Amounts of Homelessness Found in the UK?

Figures released at the end of 2016 by Shelter showed that there were nearly 255,000 people who lacked shelter in England. In Brighton and Hove, for instance, one in 69 individuals is homeless. Also identified as a homelessness hotspot is Birmingham where one in 119 people lack permanent shelter. Westminster in central London was ranked as England’s top homelessness area with one in 25 people having no permanent shelter. Other homelessness hotspots include Bristol, Slough, Manchester, parts of London, and Coventry. In Wales, Neath has been identified as having the worst homelessness statistics as 88 individuals per 10,000 households are homeless. Other areas with high homelessness rates in the UK include Glasgow, Belfast, and Liverpool.

What is the UK Government Doing to Help the Homeless?

Councils in England, Wales, and Scotland have the obligation to assist the homeless. Northern Ireland has an organization which deals with housing. Councils in the different regions have slightly varying approaches to dealing with the issue. The Homelessness Reduction Bill stipulates measures aimed to reduce homelessness in the country. The law states that councils should begin mapping out an individual at risk of becoming homeless 56 days before losing their home. The government will be disbursing £61 million to the councils to implement the law. The bill was widely lauded by charities.

Emerging Trends

The pressure group known as Shelter was created in 1966 after the spirited and influential film ‘Cathy Come Home’ shed light on homelessness and the treatment of homeless households by authorities. In the same year, a survey sponsored by the government on homelessness in England was released. The survey showed that on December 6, 1965, about 965 people slept rough. The number of homeless people has spiked since 2010, and it has been blamed on factors which include the country’s welfare policies and short hold tenancy.

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