Homelessness and Welfare Benefits in London: Practical guidance for people working to improve local responses to homelessness

What you need to know:

A lack of available, affordable accommodation will make it difficult to move people on from emergency accommodation after the pandemic. A combination of the frozen  Local Housing Allowance  and  the  benefits cap means that people simply cannot afford the property that is available.

Clear recommendations to national Government, Local Authorities and the homelessness sector are given, including continuing to link the LHA to the 30th percentile of rents in the private rented sector and extending the Universal Credit uplift for the next financial year at a minimum.

This report from Homeless Link, funded by Trust for London, looks at links between the benefit system and homelessness in London, giving a thorough analysis of the benefits policy context during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It looks at the availability and cost of accommodation in the private rented sector across London. With the growth in numbers claiming Universal Credit the report shows there is a real danger that there will be insufficient affordable accommodation. This will lead to an increase in homelessness as the pandemic ends. Work supported by Alma Economics found that, of the 32 London boroughs, 24 did not have sufficient shared private rented accommodation priced at or below the LHA rate to cover households claiming a housing element of their Universal Credit or housing benefit.

Homeless Link also worked with Groundswell to understand how people facing homelessness experience the benefits system. It paints a picture of uncertainty and instability.

Key recommendations

The report calls on national government to:  

  • Continue to link the LHA to the 30th percentile of rents in the private rented sector. 
  • Extend the Universal Credit uplift for the next financial year at a minimum. 
  • Reform the benefits cap so that it does not put anyone at risk of homelessness inside or outside of London. 
  • Invest in sufficient new affordable housing and move on accommodation in London.   
  • Ensure Work coaches are able to have more tailored communication with individuals and develop a more personalised approach to their needs. 
  • Explicitly recognise homelessness within the welfare benefit system so that people can benefit from personalised support plans that are appropriate for their situation. 

It calls on London Authorities to: 

  • Invest in new affordable housing and move on accommodation in London .  
  • Build strengths and key skills of practitioners who are providing support to people facing homelessness. 
  • Co-produce information material, online and offline with people who have personal experience of accessing benefits.
  • Support working across boundaries by institutions in different sectors and across different Boroughs.

And it calls on people working in the homelessness sector to:

  • Co-produce information material, online and offline with people who have personal experience of accessing benefits will help to overcome communication barriers and improve entitlement uptake. 
  • Offer support to people trying to make online applications and also build their digital skills and promote accessibility or digital technology.  
  • Network to share good practice.