Half of homeless people lack reading and writing skills

12 June 2014

New research by St Mungo’s Broadway and supported by NIACE has found that homeless people are being failed as children and adults when it comes to reading and writing.

The largest ever recorded survey of homeless people’s literacy and numeracy skills by direct assessment found that 51 per cent would not achieve GCSE grade D-G and lack the basic literacy skills needed for everyday life. This figure compares with one in six, or 15 per cent, of the general population who struggle to read.

In addition, 55 per cent lacked basic maths skills, many had a poor experience of school and those clients who lacked basic English and maths skills made less progress in addressing physical and mental health issues.

Although college principals who were interviewed recognised the barriers to learning faced by homeless people, funding is reliant on attendance and qualifications, and so they are unable to take the financial risk and offer the kind of flexible courses which work for people who are homeless.

Howard Sinclair, St Mungo’s Broadway Chief Executive, and the charity’s clients, are presenting the report to MPs today, along with a petition signed by almost 3,000 people that urges Skills Minister Matthew Hancock to ensure that basic skills training is well funded, suitable and accessible to all homeless people.