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Official figures show housing benefit cuts leading to sharp rise in homelessness

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Official figures show housing benefit cuts leading to sharp rise in homelessness

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Published by Jon Land for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Central Government

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Government cuts to housing benefit are causing more people in the private rented sector to become homeless and making it harder to rehouse people who are homeless, Crisis warned today.

The charity was reacting to the latest government homelessness figures which revealed that 13,890 households were accepted as homeless in England by their local council between 1 July and 30 September 2012 – 11% higher than the same period last year.

The figures, from the Department for Communities and Local Government, show that 29,130 households approached their local council as homeless – a 6% rise on the same quarter last year.

Private tenants are under pressure as a fifth of all households were accepted as homeless because of the end of an assured shorthold tenancy in the PRS, a 30% increase in the last year and 60% on two years ago. Crisis says this is a clear sign that the Government’s cuts to housing benefit are leaving private tenants unable to afford their current property.

As of 30 September, 52,960 households were living in temporary accommodation – 8% up on the same date last year. Of these, 9,160 – nearly a fifth – have been placed in another local authority, up 34% on last year and 56% on 2010, highlighting how the housing benefit cuts are forcing councils to rehouse people some distance from their current base.

The number of households in B&Bs – just under half of which have children – has more than doubled to 4,350 since the same quarter in 2010. Shockingly, 880 of these families with children have been living for six weeks or more in temporary accommodation, a figure up 184% on last year and more than five times the level of two years ago.

Crisis, the national charity for single homeless people, warned that the situation will deteriorate further without positive action from the Government.

Leslie Morphy, chief executive of Crisis, said: “If the Government wants to prevent this rise in homelessness becoming a flood, it must reverse its cuts to housing benefit and launch a genuine house-building revolution.”

“As the economic downturn continues to put strain on households and cuts to welfare – particularly housing benefit – continue to bite, homelessness has been rising steadily since 2010. Independent research shows that the situation is only going to get worse as transitional measures are phased out, further cuts come in and longer-term benefits are squeezed despite rents and living costs continuing to rise.”

In the chancellor’s Autumn Budget Statement yesterday, new cuts to housing benefit – a 1% cap on the annual uprating of benefits - were announced, which the charity warned would only add to pressure on struggling households.

Campbell Robb, Chief Executive of Shelter, said: "This huge increase in families living in B&Bs is worrying. It’s hard to imagine losing your home, let alone the horror of squeezing your family into one room without decent facilities.

"Families sometimes live like this for months and it’s the children who suffer the most. We urgently need more support this Christmas to help families stay in their homes."

Chief Executive of Homeless Link, Rick Henderson said: “The economic crisis is fuelling the number of people who don’t have a home and, as our research has shown, a worrying number of them are young people.

“Some of the most vulnerable in society face a stark choice. Being housed in inappropriate accommodation such as B&Bs, or turned away and facing the alternative of illegal lets, squatting or sleeping on the streets. This is damaging to people and communities. It is unacceptable that anyone should live like this.

“This increase in homelessness should mean we do more to prevent people losing their homes. Yet across England advice and support services face cuts and some councils are not offering effective help to people who are at risk of homelessness.

“Councils need to see funding prevention services such as family mediation and the duty on councils to offer effective advice and support as an investment in the future.”

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