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.”
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.”