Methodological approach to tackling homelessness

This research uses administrative data to explore the size and demographics of the homeless population in a local authority in Wales.

In their strategy for preventing and ending homelessness in Wales, Welsh Government outline that a better understanding of the scale of homelessness is a key question to address in order to better support people in housing crisis. The main source of information on homelessness comes from aggregate data on the number of households assessed and assisted by local authorities in Wales under the Housing (Wales) Act 2014. However, aggregate data only provides limited insight into homelessness; through ADR UK, for the first time, individual-level data for a single local authority has been made available, allowing for more detailed analysis and understanding of homelessness than previously possible. Of primary interest will be the presence of an ageing crisis amongst statutory housing services, and the possibility of an increasingly ageing client base. This interest in ageing and homelessness stems from evidence presented at the 4th International Conference of Administrative Data Research which demonstrated the existence of an ageing population of homeless service users in the United States. The motivation for this project, therefore, is understanding the presence of a similar 'crisis' for service provision in the UK.

The aim

In addition to being able to explore the age profile of homeless service users, this research will capitalise on the existence of individual-level homelessness data to assess the extent that homelessness is recorded within other ‘non-housing’ administrative data. Though legal duties under the Housing (Wales) Act 2014 mean that most people who seek assistance with housing problems are afforded greater rights to meaningful assistance, some individuals do not approach statutory services, and are therefore omitted from current aggregate data. Combining different data sources, therefore, is expected to improve estimates of homelessness.

The third component in this methodological series is an exploration of levels of repeat homelessness. Welsh Government has set out the goal of ensuring homelessness is ‘non-repeated’, yet aggregate data reported to Welsh Government does not report levels of repeat homelessness. Moreover, there are significant global differences in the definition of repeat homelessness, and in Wales, there is no agreed definition. This project aims to use case-level data for one local authority in Wales (Swansea) to reveal levels of repeat homelessness utilising a variety of different definitions.

Key questions

  • Is there an ageing crisis in homeless services?
  • To what extent can data from public services be used to enumerate homelessness in Wales?
  • How could repeat homelessness be defined in Wales? How might different definitions of repeat homelessness impact estimates in Wales?

The data

This research primarily draws on Swansea Local Authority housing services data, and links this with ‘non-housing’ services data, in order to widen coverage of people experiencing different forms of homelessness in Wales. Data being linked to will include General Practice and substance misuse services data.

Project lead

Dr Ian Thomas, Cardiff University (ADR Wales)

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