Number of UK homeless elderly people surges by 100 per cent | Sunday Observer

Number of UK homeless elderly people surges by 100 per cent

The number of elderly people becoming homeless in England has surged by 100 per cent in seven years, figures show.

People over the age of 60 are now twice as likely to register with local councils as homeless than they were seven years ago, with the figure having risen from 1,210 in 2009 to 2,420 last year.

While overall homelessness has increased in the same period, rising by 42 per cent from 41,790 to 59,260, government data shows the figure for elderly people has surged by more than double as much.

The data shows that among the homeless elderly population in 2016, more than half (61 per cent) were over the age of 65, and 21 per cent were over the age of 75.

The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents more than 370 councils in England and Wales, warned that based on existing trends, the scale of elderly homelessness is set to double by 2025.

While the numbers among over-60s were relatively low, campaigners said the rise in homelessness among the elderly presents a “ticking time bomb” for local authorities, placing a strain on not only housing but also already stretched health and social care services.

Older homeless people are presenting to councils with a range of complex health conditions, often having suffered physical and mental health problems, alcohol abuse and gambling problems, according to the LGA.

Charities and campaigners warned that there is a lack of a “proper safety net” to help elderly people when they fall into housing difficulties, with “drastic” cuts to welfare and a lack of affordable homes leaving hundreds of thousands of people without a secure home of their own.

In light of the figures, Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, told The Independent: “The fact that the number of older people who are homeless has risen by so much is very worrying. To avoid these figures going even further in the wrong direction, we need a proper safety net for when people are unfortunate enough to fall on hard times.

“We all know there’s a housing crisis in this country and unfortunately it is hitting older people hard too. There is a lack of specialist resettlement services and long term support and advice and information services are being cut.

“We need a much better choice of good housing options for older people but the supply of affordable council and housing association homes has continued to shrink alongside reductions in home building subsidies.

It is outrageous to think that any older person should be homeless – these people are the most vulnerable often with physical and mental health issues.”

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said the charity had seen a rise in the number of homeless elderly people using their services, and urged that in order for the “nightmare” to end, ministers must freeze housing benefit and commit to building more affordable homes.

“It’s astonishing that our housing crisis has got so bad that a record number of elderly people are turning up at their councils needing help finding somewhere to live. Sadly, we’re seeing this in our own services too, with older people regularly needing our advice and support when they become homeless,” she said.

“Drastic cuts to welfare and a lack of affordable homes have left hundreds of thousands of people, of all ages, without a secure and stable home of their own.

These shocking statistics will shame us as a nation, it’s not only our young paying the price of a broken housing system but now the elderly, too.

- The Independent