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16.12.15

Councils see 50% rise in homelessness support requests

The number of requests for support sent to councils from people on the brink of homelessness has risen by nearly 50% in the last five years, homeless charity Shelter has found.

Last year alone, councils received over 205,000 pleas for help from those facing the prospect of being forced out of their homes. During this period, 54,000 households were officially made homeless.

The charity said its own free helpline received 450,000 calls over the past year, with one-quarter of people threatened to lose their homes within just one month.

Campbell Robb, Shelter’s chief executive, said many of these cases were related to families with children “teetering on the brink of homelessness”, which in turn impact their performance at school.

“It’s heart-breaking to imagine one child waking up homeless and in unstable temporary accommodation on Christmas morning, yet we know that over 100,000 children across the country are facing exactly that fate,” he said.

“Sadly, the combination of our affordable housing shortage and cuts to welfare means that more and more parents are finding themselves struggling to keep a stable roof over their children’s heads.”

The LGA agreed with this, arguing that councils’ efforts to relocate those in need were hindered by a “chronic shortage of affordable homes, funding pressures and the growing demand for help highlighted in this report”.

“It is important that councils have the funding and flexibilities to help those who find themselves homeless or at risk of homelessness. Local authorities also need the power to invest in building more homes that local communities can genuinely afford,” its spokesman added.

But the DCLG argued that the government had upped its spending to combat homelessness, with £1bn provided since 2010 to support vulnerable households. A spokesperson for the department said statutory homelessness is now less than half the 2003-4 peak.

“One person without a home is one to many, which is why we’ve recently announced in the Spending Review an increase to £139m over the next four years to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping,” he added.

However, figures from the DCLG itself have previously indicated that rough sleeping has in fact increased by 55% since 2010.

And even when councils are able to help homeless families in finding temporary accommodation, many are sent to households outside their local authority district, PSE has recently revealed.

The DCLG report also showed that councils were failing to offer permanent accommodation to homeless applicants, with 63% of the accepted applications being placed in provisional homes between April and June of this year.

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