One in three fear homelessness in next five years

Report finds that over half of people assume a person is homeless due to personal reasons
23 June 2022 , By Katie Coyne

Amnesty claims homelessness is the result of the government’s systematic housing policy failure and calls for housing to be laid down in UK law as a human right 

A damning report into housing and homelessness in England has been published by international charity Amnesty, which is calling for housing to be enshrined in UK law as a human right. 

Amnesty said this is the only way the government can be held to account, despite the fact that housing is already an international human rights obligation. 

‘An Obstacle Course: Homelessness Assistance and the Right to Housing in England’, is the first piece of research on homelessness Amnesty has undertaken in the country. It found people were being locked out as local authorities had to ration supply, and concluded housing in England was “not fit for purpose”. 

Alongside this report, Amnesty commissioned polling from market research company, Savanta ComRes and, shockingly, found that nearly one in three people feared they may end up sofa-surfing or in temporary accommodation within the next five years as a result of rising housing costs. 

Yet the polling carried out in May 2022 also found most people (54%) assumed a person was homeless due to personal reasons such as relationship issues or drug addiction. Just 36% blamed the government.  

“Draconian and highly subjective rules regularly result in the most vulnerable being the least likely to be helped.” 

“It’s very convenient for the government that people often assume a person is homeless as a result of personal circumstances,” said Sacha Deshmukh, Amnesty International UK’s Chief Executive. “In truth homelessness is a result of a systematic failure of government. 

He added: “The absurd obstacle course which a person experiencing homelessness has to get through in order to ‘qualify’ for housing help is intended to lock them out, because there simply isn’t enough housing for the ever-growing need. 

“Draconian and highly subjective rules regularly result in the most vulnerable being the least likely to be helped.” 

Amnesty described the criterion ‘intentionally homeless’ as “outdated and cruel”, forcing scared people into accepting inadequate, unsuitable accommodation, and it wants it scrapped. 

It is one of three categories whereby local authorities do not have a duty to provide housing. Amnesty is also critical of the other two: subject to immigration restrictions, and not recognised as a priority need group. All three, the charity said, contravene the UK’s international human rights obligations. 

Amnesty interviewed six women whose children were taken into care, and their housing status changed from “in priority need” to “single homeless”. Yet without a home it was almost impossible to obtain work, find housing and get their children back. 

A Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities spokesperson, said “everyone deserves access to safe and secure accommodation” and that £2bn in funding will be given to local authorities over the next three years to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping. They added safeguards were in place to ensure vulnerable migrants can receive help. 

Allan Hogarth, Amnesty’s Head of Policy said that while pledging money is welcome, making housing a human right in law across the UK would “go some way to making it clear that housing is essential for people to have a fair chance at a safe, happy and dignified life. To make that a reality we need a wholescale sea-change in the way we think about and approach housing in the UK, not just a financial pledge.” 


Image credit: Shutterstock

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