The scale and nature of hidden homelessness

Crisis and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation fund an independent, longitudinal study of homelessness in the UK – the Homeless Monitor – that has contributed to a change in homelessness legislation.

Evidence from the Homeless Monitors of England, Wales and Scotland in 2015 and 2016 contributed to a change in policy. The House of Commons Library briefing paper ‘The Homelessness Reduction Bill 2016-17’ included findings from the Homeless Monitor. The Homelessness Reduction Bill 2016-17 received Royal Assent, becoming the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

The Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 places a requirement on local housing authorities in England and Wales to help all eligible applicants regarding homelessness. This is a change from the previous situation in England, where these authorities were only required to help people with a ‘priority need’, such as families with dependent children or care leavers. Shelter has referred to the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 as “the first major piece of homelessness legislation for 15 years”.

The academic research team (led by Heriot-Watt University) that carries out the analysis for the Homeless Monitor received the runner-up award in The Guardian research impact awards 2017 for their work on this project.

“The monitor has broken new ground by applying high-level policy, economic, legal and quantitative expertise to a ‘social’ topic that, in the UK, has tended to be the preserve of narrowly qualitative research” (The Guardian research impact awards 2017).

Findings from the research

The authors use Understanding Society, and its predecessor the British Household Panel Survey, to examine hidden homelessness. Hidden homelessness includes people living in overcrowded, shared or concealed households.

The Homelessness Monitor for England 2016 finds that concealed households can be persistent, rather than temporary, for single people and families. Concealed households are single people or families that live within another household. This research found that 57 per cent of concealed families were still in this situation a year later over the period 1992-2008, but the rate had increased to 66 per cent by 2013. Further, the research found that three per cent of households in England were overcrowded; a situation that is also persistent.

The Homelessness Monitor also includes evidence from other sources, including interviews with stakeholders and a survey of local authorities.

Further information

The Homelessness Monitor series for the UK.

The House of Commons Library briefing paper: The Homelessness Reduction Bill 2016-17 (CBP-7736).

The Shelter blog post: Homelessness Reduction Act becomes law – now we need a cross-Government approach to make it work.

The Guardian article: Research impact category: award winner and runners up.