Almost 80,000 people with a history of mental health issues were threatened by homelessness in the last financial year (Picture: Getty/stock image)
The number of people with mental health issues who have been at risk of homelessness is at a six-year high, according to official figures.
In the first quarter of 2023, the latest point in the timeframe, the number was 21,450 – the highest peak in the ‘concerning’ figures.
The data can be revealed as the Mental Health Foundation (MHF) today calls on the government to use the Autumn Statement to address high national levels of mental distress due to the cost of living crisis.
Almost a third of UK adults felt anxious in the past month due to their personal financial situation, according to the charity.
Dr Shari McDaid, who leads the MHF’s work on poverty, said: ‘This news about the large increase in people with mental health problems at risk of homelessness is very concerning.
‘There is a strong link between homelessness and poor mental health, with housing instability a known cause of increased mental health symptoms.
‘The threat of losing one’s home is likely compounding the anxiety many are feeling due to rising prices for essentials.
‘This is a public mental health issue and the government must do more to protect people from a threat of eviction that will undoubtedly increase poor mental health.’
A rising number of people with a history of mental health issues are facing homelessness (Picture: Getty/stock image)
The total number of people owed a ‘duty’ by a local authority because they were threatened with homelessness has risen every year since it stood at 56,980 between 2018 and 2019. Successive increases over the same period have also taken place in the respective categories for where a person has physical ill health or a disability or has a learning disability.
But households where a person has a history of mental health issues is the biggest single group in the statistics, which show the numbers of people with support needs in insecure accommodation.
Big Issue founder Lord John Bird has warned that the ‘confusion’ of the cost of living crisis is resulting in people losing their homes.
Speaking to Metro.co.uk last week, he said: ‘It’s the confusion of living on universal credit, of finding out if you’ll have somewhere to live, and when you can’t provide your family with the same amount of food…
‘When you’ve had so many knocks you don’t know what to do next, so people are drifting onto the streets because of the mental health problems that come with poverty, rising food costs, what happened with Covid and the enormous pressure on the streets and with homelessness in general, with the Section 21 “no fault” evictions.’
The MHF, which leads Mental Health Awareness Week, today published data from a poll of 5,000 UK adults carried out by the Opinium market research and insight agency.
The figures also indicated that 27 per cent of respondents had felt ‘stressed’ and nine per cent ‘hopeless’ about their personal financial situation during November this year. The charity identified poverty and financial strain as key drivers of poor mental health.
‘Our mental health is shaped by our environments and experiences,’ Dr McDaid said.
‘Over the past 15 years we have lived through overlapping crises: from recession to the pandemic, and now the ongoing cost-of-living crisis.
‘Sometimes it can seem that there is a strange sense of normality about the struggles that people are experiencing; as though we must accept that despite living in one of the richest countries on Earth research from The Trussell Trust tells us that one in seven of us face hunger due to lack of money to buy food.
‘The current extent of mental distress is unacceptable, and we can take action to reduce it.
The Mental Health Foundation has issued a worrying picture of the impact of the cost of living crisis (Picture: Mental Health Foundation/@mentalhealth)
‘Every day, our governments are making decisions that affect people’s lives, and it is the people who have the least that carry the heaviest burdens.
‘For example, the decision to freeze the income tax-free allowance until 2028 means people on lower incomes are losing a higher proportion of their salaries in tax as inflation rises.’
Campaigners wanting relief for those at the sharp end of the cost-of-living crisis will be looking to Chancellor Jeremy Hunt to provide some relief in the Autumn Statement tomorrow. Mr Hunt has indicated that benefits claimants who ‘refuse’ jobs will lose their support and this may form part of a ‘back to work’ plan within the statement.
A volunteer delivers breakfast to homeless people at a London hotel during a Christmas project run by Crisis in 2021 (Picture: Kirsty O’Connor/PA)
‘We need political decisions to be made with a real awareness of how they impact people’s mental health,’ Dr McDaid said.
‘The introduction of a mental health impact assessment of all policies would help progress the societal changes we need to support good mental health for all and, in turn, support a healthier and more prosperous UK.
‘There is much work to be done. In this week’s Autumn Statement, we need to hear about financial support schemes that will prevent people from experiencing financial strain and associated mental health problems.
‘That would be a step in the right direction.’
The government maintains that it has taken a number of measures to tackle homelessness, mental health and poverty, including preventing more than 640,000 households from falling homeless since 2018.
A spokesperson said: ‘We’re going further and faster to transform our country’s mental health services, with up to an additional £2.3 billion being invested annually until 2024 to expand services, so an extra two million people can get mental health support.
‘We have given councils £1 billion over three years through the Homelessness Prevention Grant to help them tackle homelessness. This can be used to offer financial support for people to find a new home, to work with landlords to prevent evictions, or to pay for temporary accommodation.
‘Through the Breathing Space scheme, over 100,000 people with mental ill health and facing financial difficulties have received debt advice, without pressure from creditors or mounting debts, giving them time to find a debt solution that works for them.’