Social care, housing and homelessness

07 February 2019

Katy ShortenKaty Shorten

What is the current picture for social care, housing and homelessness?


Findings from the latest statutory count estimated 4,677 people to be sleeping rough on any one night (Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, 2018). This is a decrease of 2% from 2017 to 2018, however, since 2010 rough sleeping estimates show an increase of 165% (Homeless Link, 2018). Discussion on the reasons for this are increasingly publicised in the media and have been attributed in part to the recent Government policy on welfare reform (National Audit Office, 2017).

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government released a rough sleeping strategy in 2018, which commits to halve rough sleeping in this Parliament and to end it for good by 2027, setting out three core pillars to do this: prevention, intervention and recovery. There is an emphasis within the strategy that integration and working together across systems is part of the solution, with a focus on the interface with ‘health’. For example, hospital discharge and primary care. The most explicit link drawn between rough sleeping and adult social care are:

  • Strategy commitment 76 that states Department of Health and Social Care will work with Safeguarding Adult Boards to ensure that Safeguarding Adult Reviews are conducted when a person who sleeps rough dies or is seriously harmed;
  • And strategy commitment 144 that talks about promoting guidance on care for homeless people at the end of their lives.

Mason et al 2018 argue that the Care Act 2014 is potentially good news for homeless people in terms of access to social care. This is because of the removal of references to ‘eligible’ and ‘ineligible’ groups, the way outcomes are prioritised, simplifications around ordinary residence, and the statutory footing of safeguarding now inclusive of ‘self-neglect’.

Anecdotal evidence from the Research in Practice for Adults Partner network and providers of homelessness support services indicate that there are greater numbers of homeless people accessing adult social care now and more people in homelessness services that are linked with adult social care, than ever before. And yet, the number of people sleeping on the streets is irrefutably and often distressingly high.

There appears to be significantly more people in need, a legislative framework that creates a greater fairness and equality, combined with a reduction in support services available. So what is social care’s role and response to people sleeping who are on the streets and what can we realistically do?

Meeting housing need

The gap in housing supply facing the general population in the UK is well publicised. Housing shortages and the need to build new homes are regular features and items in the news. Coupling this with changing demographics around age and disability brings into sharp focus the scale of the challenge, but also scope of opportunity and potential solutions that ‘housing’ can provide.

Where people live is fundamental to their wellbeing. In the introduction to the Disabled Facilities Grant External Review, Mackintosh et al (2018) state that ‘many disabled and older people spend most of their time in their home and the accessibility, warmth and comfort of that home has a vital role to play in health and wellbeing’. As well as the personal and human impact of housing, having a range of good housing options can also help local authorities meet key performance and budgetary targets.

Again Mackintosh et al (2018) talk about how ‘suitable housing plays a key role in preventing accidents, allowing swift return from hospital, restoring health and wellbeing, supporting carers and encouraging independent living.’ Housing strategy and supply is key to delivering on key policy drivers like the Transforming Care programme, which is about improving health and care services so that people with a learning disability and/or autism can live in the community, with the right support and close to home.

Despite this link between good housing, wellbeing and impact on targets, Government official statistics describe ‘a substantially higher proportion of individuals who live in families with disabled members live in poverty, compared to individuals who live in families where no one is disabled’ and ‘1 in 5 disabled people requiring adaptations to their home believe that their accommodation is not suitable’.

There is already lots of great work and examples of innovations and alternative housing options. Housing LIN talk about the ‘many other innovative models being developed by housing, care and community organisations’ including collaboration and co-design, intergenerational projects and peer support. These go hand-in-hand and share common principles with other national and local agendas, for example ‘strength based working’. All local authority areas are different, but there is information, knowledge and experience out there to help on each journey to a housing offer.

How can we bring this all together?

Our upcoming Partnership Conference will examine some of these key issues concerning social care, housing and homelessness. In particular, it will explore:

  • National policy context.
  • Legislation – recent changes and capacity.
  • Housing and social care interfaces – working together effectively.
  • Homelessness and complexity.
  • Housing supply – its role in maintaining independence for longer and relieving pressure across other areas of the system.

We look forward to you joining us in hearing from key speakers, as well as participating in interactive opportunities for discussion among delegates.

About the author

Katy Shorten is a Research and Development Officer at Research in Practice for Adults.


Department for Work and Pensions and Office for Disability Issues (2014) Official Statistics: Disability facts and figures available. Available online: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/disability-facts-and-figures/disability-facts-and-figures  

Homeless Link (2018) Young & Homeless 2018. Available online: https://www.homeless.org.uk/sites/default/files/site-attachments/Young%20and%20Homeless%202018.pdf

Mason K et al (2018) Multiple Exclusion Homelessness and adult social care in England: Exploring the challenges through a researcher-practitioner partnership 33(1), 3-14

Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (2018) Homelessness statistics. Available online: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/homelessness-statistics

National Audit Office (2017) Homelessness. Available online: https://www.nao.org.uk/report/homelessness/

Sheila Mackintosh, Paul Smith, Helen Garrett, Maggie Davidson, Gareth Morgan, and Rachel Russell (2018) Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) and Other Adaptations – External Review

Skidmore C and Davis S (2017) We must improve housing options for older and disabled people. Available online: https://www.housinglin.org.uk/blogs/We-must-improve-housing-options-for-older-and-disabled-people/

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