A shocking rise in the number of households accepted as homeless in England since 2009 has been branded “a national disgrace”, Welfare Weekly can reveal.

Figures released by the Department for Communities and Local Government today showl that although the number of households accepted as statutory homeless dropped by 1% in the last year, homelessness has soared by more than 50% since 2009.

The data also shows that the total number of households in temporary accommodation on 30 June 2017 was 78,180, up 7% on a year earlier, and up 63% on the low of 48,010 on 31 December 2010.

Meanwhile, local authorities are taking less action to ‘prevent and relieve’ homelessness. Councils helped 54,270 households at risk of homelessness between 1 April and 30 June 2017, down 1% on 54,610 in the same quarter of 2016.

Chartered Institute of Housing policy and practice officer Faye Greaves said: “To have so many people homeless in 2017 is quite simply a national disgrace and something we must act on now.

“Although the number of households accepted as homeless has dropped slightly since last year, today’s figures show it has jumped by more than 50 per cent since 2009. That’s partly because of pressures on the housing market but also some of the welfare changes that have come into force over the past few years.

“Our research with the University of Sheffield has shown that the vast majority of councils and housing associations believe government welfare policy is hitting their efforts to tackle homelessness. And as the London Assembly has shown this week, for everyone who goes to their council for help there are likely to be many more ‘hidden homeless’ people sofa surfing and sleeping on public transport for example.

“We are particularly concerned about the continuing rise in the number of households in temporary accommodation, which has soared by a staggering 63 per cent since December 2010. That figure includes thousands of families with children trapped in bed and breakfast accommodation, which is often very poor quality and highly unsuitable.”

Photo credit: Invincible……. via photopin (license)

CIH has called on the government to use the Autumn Budget to make sure that councils have the resources they need to carry out their new duties under the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017, and also to establish an expanded ‘Housing First’ programme aimed at halving rough sleeping by 2022 and ending it by 2027.

Faye Greaves said: “History tells us that we can reduce or even eliminate homelessness but it does require a co-ordinated approach – that means government investment, funding for affordable housing and a concerted effort across the housing and homelessness sectors.”

Rick Henderson, chief executive of Homeless Link, added: “A raft of issues is conspiring to cause the homelessness of thousands of people across the country, in a situation that is not improving.

“We must not become desensitised to this serious problem, or forget that these high numbers represent people’s lives in turmoil.

“We can and must act to prevent and end homelessness, and with their party conference less than a week away, the Government must take the opportunity to tackle the reasons why homelessness continues to rise.”

  • Linda

    There appears to be a misunderstanding in relation to the Homelessness Reduction Act. although it has received Royal Assent, it has NOT yet been passed into law. This will not happen until all the loose ends are tied up and it is reported not to pass into law until sometime in 2018

    I am presently threatened with homelessness and a vulnerable adult.
    So I am having to go through the system.

    In my experience, my council is already acting on the homelessness Reduction Act Obligations.

    However. although the changes to be brought in appear an improvement, Its my belief that the changes as interpreted and implemented by local councils are going to make it harder for vulnerable people to access council housing.

    They appear to be using the new law to include conditionality which is not helpful to vulnerable people and allows the councils to consider priority groups as making themselves ‘intentionally homeless’.

    In my area, the homelessness prevention team appears to want all applicants to hand over full control of all sensitive data, offering no opt out.

    Vulnerable Adults are having to effectively sign away their rights under the Data Protection Act, and possibly ‘The Right to a Private Life’ under the Human Rights Act. This is done by using multiple clauses all lumped together in the Declarations and Consent parts of their forms. Which are written in such a way as to make understanding them virtually impossible. The language is obsfucational, opaque and confusing. By linking together statements of truth with what appears to be handing councils a blank cheque in relation to who. what, where and when they can share, approach and dig for any and all information from any person or organisation they choose, is disconcerting to say the least. Add to this the amount of sensitive data the councils are insisting to be disclosed by vulnerable people, one wonders what the real intent is.

    If a person does not consent to disclosure and sharing, or giving councils free reign to approach any or all persons or organisations relating to any and all areas of their ‘Affairs’, then councils are able to allege that the person is making themselves ‘Intentionally Homeless’ because they deem them as refusing to co-operate.

    Councils are also interpreting a court judgement relating to the interpretation of ‘Vulnerable’.

    A recent court judgement stated that in order to be considered a vulnerable adult, and therefore owed a duty of care by councils for rehousing, a person must provide evidence that they would be considered ‘More vulnerable if homeless and living on the streets than a Normal person’.

    Documents and guidance I have seen says that priority groups such as ‘Mental Health’ should no longer be automatically considered vulnerable, and its up to the vulnerable applicant to demonstrate that their vulnerability would be more than a normal person.

    In order to achieve vulnerability status, they have to convince a housing officer this is the case by providing extremely detailed and sensitive data covering all areas of their lives and how they are affected by their MH condition.

    All this data can be collected, uploaded onto the Universal Care Data system being created and thus shared with whom they like. There is currently no opt out, and it appears refusal to share such info with an unqualified low grade housing assistant will be considered ‘refusing to cooperate’.

    If you go through all this, then it is also likely that in order to be offered a council tenancy you will be subjected to even more disclosures of highly personal and sensitive information, which again will require consent to share with whomever they chose, in order to secure accommodation.

    The devil is in the detail and how the councils are interpreting their duties.
    From my experience its a control grab and has little to do with helping vulnerable people.