A report issued today by the Northern Ireland Audit Office found that the Northern Ireland Housing Executive’s (NIHE) Homelessness Strategy 2012-17, aimed at reducing homelessness, has had “limited success”.
The report also found that the number of people deemed homeless has increased by 32 per cent in the last five years.
Among the other key findings of the report were several other observations:
• In the five years to 2017 at least £226 million of public funding was allocated for measures to prevent and deal with homelessness …. …There is no doubt that the social costs of homelessness are significant and would be far greater without this public expenditure.
• The NIHE has been slow to adopt the Housing Options preventative approach which has resulted in decreased levels of homeless presentations and acceptances in England, Scotland, Wales over a number of years…..
• It is difficult to assess how effective the range of activities, detailed in the Homelessness Strategy 2012-17, were in dealing with and reducing homelessness. The Strategy’s objectives were not linked to clear high level expected outcomes nor were there any outcome based targets ….
• Data sets and statistics on homelessness that are published by the Department are less comprehensive than those published in other jurisdictions …,.
• NIHE was unable to provide evidence based explanations for the year on year increasing number of homeless acceptances and homelessness trends across its regions….
• Between 2012 and 2017 substantial financial resources of around £226 million, excluding Housing Benefit costs of £65 million, were committed to preventing and dealing with the complex issue of homelessness. A large number of activities and initiatives were funded to provide a wide range of services, however, over this period statutory homeless acceptances increased from 9,021 to 11,889 (32 per cent). We accept that the homeless numbers are dependent on many external influences and variables outside the control of the Department and NIHE. The homelessness trends reflected in official Departmental statistics indicate that the aim of reducing homelessness over the course of the Homelessness Strategy 2012-17 has had limited success.
A Department for Communities spokesperson said: “The department continues to work closely with the Housing Executive and other key partners across government and within the voluntary and community sector on preventing homelessness, and tackling homelessness where it occurs.”
A NIHE spokesperson said the report was “welcomed”.
“Actions to address some of the recommendations within the report are included in our current homelessness strategy Ending Homelessness Together, which was published in April of this year,” they added.
• To read the full Northern Ireland Audit Office report, go to https://www.niauditoffice.gov.uk/publications/homelessness-northern-ireland-0
• The latest issue of VIEW, which looks at homelessness, will go online next week. This issue was supported by Simon Community NI and Choice Housing. Sign up for a free copy to be delivered to your inbox at http://viewdigital.org/sign-get-view/