Can harnessing digital help prevent homelessness?
If, walking around London, it feels like homelessness or rough sleeping is getting worse, you’d be right. It’s at least 16% up from last year nationally, but up to 600% worse in some Metropolitan areas.
Capita attended a techUK and LGiU local government roundtable last week to explore how better use of tech and data can enable councils’ strategy for preventing homelessness, especially in light of the new Homelessness Reduction Act coming into force from April 2018.
Capita's Insight team has carried out some analysis work with local authorities in identifying the drivers of homelessness, the profile of people affected and, more importantly, the early indicators of people who are at risk of becoming homeless based on their previous contact with the authority. The results showed that over 40% of reported homelessness occurred after tenancies or tied accommodation contracts came to an end. The next largest affected cohorts were individuals whose parent/s (c. 15%) or other family/friends (c. 17%) were no longer willing or able to accommodate them. There were also other important correlations with local housing deprivation, overcrowding and the gap between rent relative to salaries.
When the profiles of homeless people were studied it was found that they were more likely to be young and living in shared/mixed households, more likely to be female and single parents or having lived in their previous residence only for a short time.
When the previous contact points of homeless people with the council were analysed, it was found they were more likely to have contacted the council regarding new or existing benefits claims, more likely to have contacted the council in relation to reminder or final notices for council tax payments and, for those already in contact with adult social care, more likely to receive direct payments or professional support.
So, could the insight above help address homelessness by developing an index to identify the likelihood that an individual could become homeless, as part of a policy to better manage that risk? Possibly. We could engage differently with people receiving reminders and final notices on council tax or with respect to benefits claims. We could also work together with adult social care to identify financial problems for residents receiving direct payments.
However, it would be naïve to assume that this insight captures the complete picture. There’s a significant hidden homelessness and rough sleeping problem, where vulnerable people with complex needs, or those who have been driven out by abuse and violence, do not feel able to contact authorities or wider support. How do you get a better understanding on the early signals before they become homeless?
The roundtable was valuable in discussing the role digital can play in identifying these hidden homeless and rough sleeping cohorts. In partnership with the other frontline agencies, charities and digital companies we have an opportunity to pull together better insight to this growing problem and creating new ways to predict, detect and prevent this worrying trend.
We are now exploring a collaboration with wider agencies, charities and the third sector to test a more robust insight led index to identify the likelihood of homelessness and new digital interventions in this area.