Wednesday, 16 April 2014

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.

Readers' comments (3)

  • Joe Halewood

    At last we have some substantive evidencce of gatekeeping, yet the fact it takes an undercover 'mystery shopping' exercise to highlight this is quite offensive.

    Anyone thats involved in any way with homelessness knows that gatekeeping is endemic and that all the official views on its figures (and claimed reductions) are deeply flawed and unreliable.

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  • I was homeless for a time in Watford. Filled out the housing application form stating this. But for some strange reason, Watford council don't class having nowhere to go and no roof over your head as homeless. Never did figure out what is classed as "homeless" in Watford.

    Band C on their choice based lettings website is among other things the homeless catagory. But for some strange reason, if you're homeless, you go into Band E!!!

    The mose useless council in Britain

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  • We have been living in a single room in a B&B (breakfast we actually do not get) for the last 20 months thanks to our incompetent council! When we first approached out Local Authority (my partner had knee surgery and needed ground floor accommodation) they told us we were not a priority and we would have to wait, which was fair enough and we started looking for alternative accommodation. Soon after my partner-suffered stroke, that is when the Council turned us away time after time. Even when my partner was discharged from hospital, he had to do stairs on his backside in a communal entrance whilst awaiting heart surgery and still the Council did nothing! Only after 6 months, someone on the off chance in another borough mentioned the Homeless Persons Unit to us, we then approached our Council and were kept for 8 hours while they faffed about! They did exactly what Birmingham Council done, ignoring the fact that people are homeless at home and are in breech of their duty. When are people going to realize that Councils do not have homeless people, only people with housing needs….the fake it up so they can get their beacons and bask in the lime light while people suffer!

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