Friday, 04 September 2015

Gatekeeping casts doubts on homelessness data

Crisis has questioned government figures indicating homelessness applications are down, suggesting councils may be keeping numbers artificially low.

Homelessness figures released last week cover the period from July to September 2009. They indicate a 24 per cent fall in the number of people making applications to their local council for help with homelessness and a 28 per cent fall in the number of applications accepted by councils, compared with the same period in 2008.

However, research by Crisis indicates that some councils are ‘gatekeeping’ - preventing people approaching them for help making an application, so artificially keeping the number of applications down.

In an undercover investigation, Crisis mystery shoppers posed as people asking for help with homelessness and made 45 visits to councils to test their responses. The results were published in their No one’s priority report.

In at least 13 instances the mystery shopper did not even get to talk to a housing officer, being turned away by a receptionist and told that they were ‘not a priority’. In only nine instances was the shopper given the opportunity to make a homelessness application or did it appear that they eventually might have been.

Leslie Morphy, chief executive of Crisis, said the research threw the reliability of the government figures into doubt.

‘We found widespread gatekeeping in our sample, meaning numbers of applications were kept low, but homeless people were not given the help they needed,’ she said.

Ms Morphy added: ‘Particularly during these tough economic times, councils must be helping all those who approach them, rather than hiding behind legal distinctions.’

According to the law and government guidance, everyone who is officially recognised as homeless is entitled, at a minimum, to advice and assistance from their local council to prevent and resolve their homelessness.

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