Permanent running repairs: The successful failure of statutory homelessness policy in London




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De Montfort University


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Peer reviewed


England has a statutory definition of homelessness, and prescribed levels of provision for homeless households. Policy is set by central but delivered by local government. 66% of the national demand for homelessness services is concentrated within London, where service provision is fragmented between 33 local authorities. Some households receive significant levels of assistance, but provision fails to address the wider systemic causes of homelessness. Existing structures and processes continue without substantial reform. This thesis explores why such a policy failure has an apparent stability. Context is provided by the nature of central and local government relations, public sector austerity, and the influence of housing markets. Key to understanding, however, are the coping strategies deployed by local authorities, and their practitioners. Both innovation and failure are exemplified in the provision of temporary accommodation to the homeless. A conclusion is that the architecture of statutory provision has serious design flaws. Such shortcomings are readily visible in areas of high housing demand, such as London. Outright failure is avoided precisely because local authorities and practitioners are effective in continually repairing existing systems. A consequence of this, is to perpetuate homelessness provision in a state of ‘successful failure.’ This thesis concludes that a continuance of this ‘successful failure’ is likely without sustained change to the governance of statutory homelessness, and the management of the private rented sector.





Research Institute