A study carried out in partnership by University College London and the Kensington and Chelsea Learning Disability Service has discovered that autistic people have an elevated risk of becoming homeless.
Reported on the academic journalism website the Conversation, William Mandy, one of the researchers involved in the study, revealed that people who displayed autistic traits which would be in line with a diagnosis of autism existed in a significantly higher proportion amongst the screened selection of 106 homeless people who were involved in their study. The team carrying out the study discovered that 13 of the 106 people – 12% of the people surveyed – would be considered as having autism, significantly higher than the 1% of the general population who are autistic.
Mandy explains that they did not attempt to diagnose or find homeless people who had been clinically diagnosed with autism on purpose. He writes: “We did not try to reach confirmed, clinical diagnoses of autism, as this requires an extensive assessment involving family members, which would be impractical for most homeless people. Instead we focused on collecting data about autistic symptoms among homeless people based on in-depth interviews with their keyworkers.”
A report from Shelter published in November said that they believe there are at least 320,000 homeless people in Britain, a 4% rise on the previous year, despite the government’s promises to tackle homelessness across the country. It noted that the figures are likely a low estimate as it does not take into account so-called “hidden” homeless people, like those who couch surf or live in cars.
The introduction of the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 was an effort by the government to prevent and relieve homelessness, but charities including Shelter questioned how helpful it would be if it failed to address the causes of homelessness, and the lack of affordable housing in the UK.
A recent report from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism also revealed that one-third of homeless people in the UK die from conditions which could be treated. Since they began collecting data in October 2017, the BIJ has recorded a tally of 796 people who have died while living on the streets or in temporary accommodation.
Mandy writes that their findings concluded that homeless autistic people were more likely to be socially isolated, and coupled with underfunded services to help autistic people find employment and accommodation, and a lack of understanding of autism at a local government level means that homeless autistic people are likely not receiving the necessary support.Get your copy of UNITE Magazine