Homelessness costs government 'millions'
Councils in England spend nearly £345 million on homelessness a year, a Communities and Local Government department paper reveals.
Local authorities spend around £100 million on temporary accommodation and £70 million on homelessness prevention, according to 2010/11 forms English councils returned to CLG on housing services revenue.
The department has highlighted the costs of homeless in an evidence review, published yesterday, which is a basis for further research and analysis on the financial cost of homelessness.
It also points to a Department of Health 2010 study that suggests the cost of homelessness to the NHS is £64 million a year, with homeless people 3.2 times more likely than the general population to be an inpatient admission.
Although, it notes, the health figures only cover hospital admissions and accident emergency attendances which are ‘likely to represent only a small fraction of the total costs to health services’.
‘The most prevalent problems are drug and alcohol dependency and mental health problems, suggesting that the more significant costs to health and support services are likely to come from drug and alcohol treatment and mental health services,’ it says.
It also states: ‘The evidence strongly suggests the experience of being homeless can exacerbate offending behaviour and play a role in recidivism. The resulting costs to the criminal justice system and policing may be significant.’
The document gives previously unpublished cost estimates from the Ministry of Justice showing the cost to the criminal justice system of a man convicted of shop-lifting is around £3,500, while the total cost of a drug offence conviction is estimated to be around £16,000.
CLG notes in the paper an accurate financial cost of homelessness to the government is difficult to assess because of the lack of evidence on the number of homeless people interacting with government services.
The evidence in the review related mainly to single homeless rough sleepers and hostel dwellers because it was believed most homelessness costs are attributable to the most vulnerable and hardest to help.