How can a child be ‘intentionally’ homeless?

Wales has made amazing progress in preventing homelessness in the last year.  It’s time to take the next step.

Imagine the kind of disruption that homelessness brings to a child’s life.  Insecurity, worry, having to move house time and time again, perhaps having to move schools and lose friends, while your family tries to get back on its feet.

This is the reality for many families who are denied help by the council because they are deemed to be ‘intentionally homeless’.

Instead they have to find their own way with friends and family, or whatever private rented housing they can find. Any support needs the family may have are likely to go unmet. There will be little chance of settled, permanent accommodation.

Wales has already made big changes in homelessness law. Today, councils are helping many more people to deal with their homelessness.

But this legal loophole means that more than 130 children in Wales every year – the equivalent of more than five classrooms – are literally left homeless without help. We are calling on local councils to close the loophole.

The Welsh Government agrees that intentional homelessness for children must end – and has given councils until 2019 to make the change.  Councils could end it now if they wanted. Most say they want to retain the option – or the threat – of the intentionality test.

But despite this, councils are rarely using it. Intentional homelessness decisions have gone down by a massive 65 per cent in the last year.  However, we don’t know how often it is used as a threat, and we don’t know how many families are put off accessing help because of it.

The intentional homelessness test is a relic of the Poor Law that has no place in the modern world. Local authorities have shown that they can operate without it.

If they all abolished intentionality for households with children tomorrow, we could save 400 children from homelessness by 2019.

No child should have to be homeless.

Read these real stories to learn more about intentional homelessness.

Let’s end child homelessness.

Here are three actions you can take to help us end child homelessness in Wales.

  1. Add your support to the Intention to Action campaign to end intentional homelessness for children in Wales
  2. Spread the word on social media using the hashtag #IntentionToAction
  3. Tweet about it and tag your local council:

Children don’t intentionally make themselves homeless – put a stop to this today, save 400 children by 2019. #IntentionToAction

End intentional homelessness for children in Wales now. #IntentionToAction

Why wait until 2019? End intentional homelessness for children today and save 400 children. #IntentionToAction

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What is intentional homelessness?

According to the law, a person is intentionally homeless if he or she ‘deliberately does or fails to do anything’ which leads to them losing accommodation which they could reasonably occupy.

Examples of deliberate acts include giving up accommodation that is affordable, or failing to pay rent in a ‘persistent and wilful’ way.

Government guidance says that councils should be careful when considering intentionality for vulnerable people, in case their homelessness is caused by an unmet support need. The guidance gives examples of situations where a person’s homelessness might not be seen as deliberate: these include relationship breakdown, and fleeing threats of violence.

Read our real stories to judge for yourself how fairly the law is currently applied.