Local authority homelessness prevention in England: empowering consumers or denying rights?

High profile commitments to stemming homelessness have been integral to New Labour's emphasis on promoting social inclusion since 1997. During this period official policy has favoured an increasingly assertive approach in this area as exemplified by the successful post-1998 programmes to reduce street homelessness. The period since 2002 has seen a broader ministerial drive to reduce homelessness, mainly through encouraging local authorities (LAs) to adopt more pro-active, preventative approaches to the problem. Aided by substantial central funding LAs have responded by developing numerous initiatives to this end. Particularly where they involve assisting people at risk of homelessness to access private tenancies, such schemes are often justified by LAs as empowering consumers and promoting choice. With official homelessness figures in England having fallen dramatically since 2003/04, it would appear that the new 'homelessness prevention regime' has made a marked impact. However, what such figures do not reveal is the extent to which this results from the adoption of more restrictive interpretations of LA duties under the homelessness legislation. This could mean that the problem is being re-defined rather than resolved. Drawing on a recently completed study, this paper explores the tensions between helping resolve people's housing problems, on the one hand, and upholding legal rights to accommodation, on the other.

Publication Date: 
867 - 883
Journal Name: 
Housing Studies
England, UK