Government figures released as charity warns ‘the worst is yet to come’
Homeless households rise 17 per cent in 12 months
The number of homeless households will continue to rise as the economic downturn and benefit reforms bite, according to new research.
The paper, by Heriot-Watt and York universities, comes as government figures, published last Thursday, revealed the number of households accepted as homeless in England between April and June 2011 rose 17 per cent to 11,820 compared with the same quarter last year.
The official statistics from the Communities and Local Government department are the first to emerge since the coalition government cut the amount of local housing allowance payable to claimants.
Since April LHA has been capped at between £250 and £400 a week, depending on property size, while the five-bedroom rate has been removed.
The figures show that between April 2010 and April 2011 the number of people becoming homeless after their private tenancy ended rose 46 per cent to 2,130.
The number jumped 22 per cent between the first quarter of 2011 and the second quarter, when the caps were introduced.
The paper, commissioned by homelessness Charity Crisis and published the day after the CLG’s homelessness statistics, predicts that this is the tip of the iceberg.
It says that the government’s benefit reforms in combination with the pressures of the economic downturn seem ‘certain to increase all forms of homelessness’ and warns ‘the worst is yet to come’.
Leslie Morphy, chief executive of Crisis, warned: ‘Homelessness is rising and we fear cuts to housing benefit and housing budgets, alongside the Welfare Reform Bill and Localism Bill will cause it to increase yet further.
‘We need the government to change course now or risk returning us to the days of countless lives facing the debilitating effects of homelessness.’
The latest figures reveal that the number of households placed in bed and breakfast accommodation by councils between April and June this year rose 29 per cent to 3,120 from 2,410 in the same quarter last year.
The number of families with children in bed and breakfast also grew 63 per cent in a year to 1,210. Of these, 160 had been there for six weeks or more.
Government guidelines say 16 and 17-year-olds and families with children should not be put in B&B accommodation except in an emergency and then for no more than six weeks.
Jenny Edwards, chief executive of Homeless Link, which represents 500 homelessness charities, called for ‘urgent action to address the chronic shortage of affordable housing’.
A CLG spokesperson said: ‘The most important thing the government can do to help struggling households stay in their homes is keep interest rates low, and to do that we must cut the deficit. That is why we are introducing the reforms that will cut the housing benefit bill.’
Inside Housing has been calling for more equitable benefit reform as part of its What’s the Benefit? campaign
It’s official: how homelessness figures have changed
17 per cent
rise in the number of households accepted as homeless
29 per cent
rise in the number of households in bed and breakfast accommodation
63 per cent
rise in the number of families with children in bed and breakfast accommodation
12 per cent
fall in private homes leased by councils and housing associations as temporary accommodation