Homelessness: Dozens of Bedford's care and institution leavers not getting "best start at life"
"There is often a feeling from care leavers that they are being left to fend for themselves"
Homelessness shadowed the lives of dozens of people in Bedford who left care or institutions last year, figures reveal.
With thousands of vulnerable people in this situation across England, campaigners are calling for more investment in services to support the transition out of settings such as hospitals and prisons, or the care system.
Data released by the former Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) shows in the year to March, Bedford council owed homelessness support to 24 households where the main applicant had left an institution with no settled accommodation to return to.
Of those, 22 had already become homeless, while two faced the prospect of not having a roof over their head.
They were among the 7,720 households across England who were pushed into homelessness or at risk of losing accommodation for this reason in 2020-21 – a 24 per cent rise from 2019-20.
Separate figures show 7,100 households in the country who needed help securing accommodation last year had the main applicant listed as a care leaver.
In Bedford, there were 26 households in this situation – four more than in 2019-20.
The figures relate to adults aged between 18 and 25, who spent time in the care system and were looked after for at least one day after their 16th birthday.
Those flagged as having left care may also have been listed as an institution leaver, depending on the care setting they were in.
The Care Leavers' Association estimates around one in 10 care leavers struggle to secure housing, with the remainder often living in unsuitable homes.
Director David Graham said: “If your head is still messed up about why you had to go into care, then you are less likely to be able to keep and manage your own accommodation and life.”
He added care leavers should be given priority access to housing.
"Care leavers have to leave home and live independently at a much earlier age than young people in the general population.
"There is often a feeling from care leavers that they are being left to fend for themselves. They don't have a base to call home and can't then work at improving other areas of life such as education and health,” he said.
The Government said areas with higher numbers of care leavers at risk of homelessness had been receiving a share of £8.2 million to improve accommodation outcomes since 2018-19.
Homelessness charity Crisis said there was no excuse for anyone to leave care or another institution with nowhere to go.
Jon Sparkes, chief executive, said: “If we are to give people the best chance at a life, then we really need to see all services working together to put plans in place to help people move on.”
In response to the coronavirus pandemic, extra Government funding was allocated to take 37,000 rough sleepers off the streets, while funding is also being given to councils to prevent homelessness.
A spokeswoman for the new Levelling Up, Housing and Communities – which has replaced the MHCLG – said more people were being referred to homelessness prevention services.
She added: “Tackling rough sleeping and homelessness remains an absolute priority for the Government and we are spending an unprecedented £750 million this year, including funding for drug and alcohol treatment and mental health support.”