Study shows no evidence of queue jumping: Rosie Waterhouse looks at the statistics behind the image created by Tory ministers

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The Independent Online
THE IMAGE of teenage mothers and youths presenting themselves as homeless in order to jump the queue for a council house is not borne out by the facts.

Research by the Institute of Housing and the Government's own figures undermine claims made by Sir George Young, the housing minister, and other senior Tories who are targeting single mothers and feckless fathers.

Department of the Environment figures for 1991 show 13,000 women under 20 as heads of council homes - 0.3 per cent of the total.

A survey of local authorities by the Institute of Housing, published yesterday, found that in 1992 councils accepted for housing almost 142,000 homeless people. The 30 authorities who responded showed between 2 and 14 per cent of those presenting themselves as home less were teenage mothers.

Among the 15 councils which had data the survey found that the number of single parents accepted as homeless ranged from 20 per cent to 59 per cent in the Conservative London borough of Wandsworth.

The survey also found the proportion of council tenancies headed by a person under 25 was just 3 per cent.

The institute's research showed there was no evidence that single parents were being provided with council homes at the expense of two-parent families. No council differentiated on the basis of marital status. All applicants were judged on housing need.

Lone mothers living in council accommodation were found to be older women, who had either separated from their partner or were victims of domestic violence. Nine out of ten councils said it was rare for unmarried teenage mothers or pregnant girls to present themselves for rehousing.

The Labour-dominated Association of Metropolitan Authorities confirmed the findings. Matthew Warburton, assistant secretary for housing, said: 'Our starting point is that in relation to housing need, single-parent families and two-parent families are in exactly the same position. They are allocated points according to their housing need such as overcrowding, shared amenities and damp conditions.'

A spokeswoman for the National Council for One Parent Families said one-parent families were 'as likely as everyone else to spend at least two years in temporary accommodation'.