Homeless women: 'Sad chronicle of missed opportunities'
Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Communities, Health
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Women’s homelessness is a “sad chronicle of missed opportunities” to get the right help to women at the right time, a new report has claimed.
Published by charity St Mungo’s, the report reveals that more than 10,000 women were in homelessness services in the UK last year, and many more are ‘hidden homeless’.
Evidence from St Mungo’s 'Rebuilding Shattered Lives' report shows homeless women are being failed at a local and national level.
The study, which brings together more than 200 contributions from charities, academics and homeless women themselves, highlights problems including separation from children, mental and physical ill health, prison sentences, drug and alcohol use and involvement in prostitution - problems that often stem from trauma following violence and abuse.
Some of the statistics the report highlights include:
• Women made up 26% of those who accessed homelessness services in 2013.
• 79% of St Mungo’s female clients who are mothers have had their children taken into care or adopted. Many are traumatised by the loss of their children and struggle to cope with limited contact.
• 70% of the women St Mungo’s work with have mental health needs, compared to 57% of male clients.
• Half of St Mungo’s female clients have experienced domestic violence and 19% had experienced abuse as a child, compared with 5% and 8% respectively of male clients. Around one in four women nationally experiences domestic abuse at some point in their lives.
Charles Fraser, St Mungo’s chief executive, said: “There is much good practice out there, but as this report shows, we also need new approaches. We have to get this right, work with partners and act now.
“This report evidences a sad chronicle of missed opportunities where women fail to get the help they need. National leadership is key.”
St Mungo's has made 10 recommendations to local and central government to help ease the problem:
1: Services working with women who are homeless or at risk should be based on principles of holistic, gender sensitive support for complex needs.
2: The Minister for Women and Equalities should hold relevant government bodies to account for preventing and tackling women’s homelessness.
3: The Minister for Women and Equalities should be added to the membership of the ministerial working group on homelessness to ensure that it expressly considers women’s homelessness.
4: Each local authority should identify a senior member of staff to lead on women and homelessness, including improving and coordinating service provision and strategy, and monitoring progress on ending women’s homelessness.
5: Local authorities should ensure organisations that come into contact with vulnerable women recognise the risks of homelessness and are equipped to provide, or signpost to preventative support.
6: Innovative approaches to tackling women’s homelessness should be identified, tested and developed, specifically lead practitioner approaches; multi agency case management; and cross boundary initiatives.
7: Commissioners must ensure that local provision gives women a choice between women only or mixed services.
8: Commissioners should invest in cost benefit analysis of services aimed at preventing or resolving women’s homelessness, and of women only services in particular.
9: The government should ensure that the troubled families programme addresses the needs of girls who are at risk of homelessness in adulthood, identifying girls who need support.
10: Access to parenting support and perinatal interventions that have been shown to be effective in improving outcomes for children should be extended.