William Eichler 22 March 2018

Homelessness statistics ‘national disgrace’, pressure group says

The latest homelessness figures reveal the number of households in temporary accommodation is just under 79,000.

According to the latest homelessness statistics, the number of households in temporary accommodation at the end of last year was 78,930 — up 4% from the same time in 2016.

This figure is a 64% increase on the low of 48,010 recorded at the end of 2010.

The statistics, published today, also reveal there were 5,710 households in bed and breakfast (B&B) style accommodation as of 31 December 2017. 36% of these had dependent children or expected children — a decrease of 27% from the same quarter the previous year.

Between 1 October and 31 December 2017 local authorities accepted 13,640 households as being statutorily homeless — down 11% from 15,280 on the previous quarter and down 5% from 14,420 on the same quarter of 2016.

The figure is up 45% from a low of 9,430 in the fourth quarter of 2009.

‘On average over the last three years, councils are having to house the equivalent of an extra secondary school’s worth of homeless children in temporary accommodation every month,’ said Cllr Martin Tett, the Local Government Association’s (LGA) housing spokesman.

‘That is not only unsustainable for councils, but hugely disruptive to the families involved.’

Cllr Tett said the national housing shortage was the ‘root cause’ of the problem but he acknowledged that new homes would not just ‘appear overnight’.

Instead, he urged Whitehall to adapt welfare reforms to ensure housing remains affordable for low-income families and to allow councils to borrow to build new homes.

‘The Government can help councils tackle homelessness — it’s now critical that they take steps to do this,’ he added.

Commenting on the figures, Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) policy and practice officer Faye Greaves said: ‘The fact that so many people are homeless in England today is quite simply a national disgrace.

‘While the number of households accepted as homeless has dropped slightly over the past year, today’s figures show that it has jumped by 45% since the low of 2009.

‘And the real picture is likely to be much worse — 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.’

‘Our national housing crisis combined with the welfare changes in recent years have created a toxic mix,’ Ms Greaves continued.

‘The Homelessness Reduction Act, which comes into force in less than two weeks, has the potential to help councils do more to tackle homelessness —but only if the Government makes sure they have enough resources to put it into practice effectively.

‘And ultimately, if we really want to tackle this issue we need to start building more genuinely affordable homes.’

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