Public policy context
The type and quality of support that homeless young people
receive has changed dramatically since Centrepoint opened its first
hostel in 1969. Increasingly, an important part of the work that
Centrepoint does is with national and local government to improve
services for all homeless young people. For more information, see
our Influencing policy section.
During the 1980s, youth homelessness reached record levels.
Homelessness became a national issue, especially in urban areas
like London where large numbers of rough sleepers became an
increasingly visible sign of the scale of the problem.
The first UK-wide inquiry into the scale of the problem of youth
homelessness was not attempted until 1995. The research found that
over a quarter of a million young people across the UK had
experienced homelessness that year.
The Housing Act
1996 was a major piece of legislation brought in partly to
deal with the increase in homelessness experienced in the previous
decade. Part VII set out in one place the homelessness and wider
housing duties of local authorities, including responsibility for
securing permanent accommodation for homeless people in 'priority
The Homelessness Act
2002 took the important step of adding 16- to 17-year-olds, 18-
to 20-year-old care leavers and vulnerable care leavers to the list
of groups that local councils should regard as in priority
In 2003, a new system was introduced to pay for housing-related
support costs for a number of vulnerable groups including homeless
young people. 'Supporting People' replaced a long period of
uncertainty after a 1997 court ruling that housing benefit could no
longer fund care and support.
In 2007, the Labour government published a
policy briefing on tackling youth homelessness, which
recognised that the number of young people who were homeless or at
risk of homelessness in England was still too high. This included a
new commitment to prevent vulnerable young people from becoming
homeless and provide better support for them if they were homeless
or at risk of homelessness. A new National Youth Homelessness
Scheme was set up, led jointly by the Department for Communities
and Local Government, Centrepoint and YMCA England.
The new Coalition government has been clear from the outset that
they want to protect homelessness funding despite a difficult
financial climate. In addition, the Housing Minister, Grant Shapps,
currently chairs a regular cross-departmental group of ministers
from eight different government departments seeking to reduce
Click to enlarge
However, research by the homelessness umbrella organisation
Homeless Link has revealed that funding for supported housing
is being cut by an average of 13% across England. Funding cuts in
housing benefit may have an adverse effect on youth homelessness,
which may limit the effectiveness of the Ministerial Group's
efforts to tackle the problem.
Centrepoint is working closely with the government to ensure
that homeless young people do not lose out as a result of