Ombudsman calls for better homelessness services
Councils’ use of temporary accommodation is failing young people and families, the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) has warned.
Housing families in bed and breakfasts should be a last resort, with stays no longer than six weeks, the law states. But many are staying for longer, as local authorities struggle to manage growing homelessness.
The LGO called for both central and local government to drive up standards and stated that bed and breakfast accommodation was “unsuitable”. The number of complaints about homelessness services has risen by 14% over the last two years.
Dr Jane Martin, Local Government Ombudsman, said: “My challenge to local and central government, to policy makers, and to our elected representatives is to listen to the individual cases of people whose voices are too often hidden in the homelessness statistics.
“Their complaints provide the opportunity to learn, to use that learning to deliver service improvements and provide public services that are accountable to, and meet the needs of, local people.
“Despite councils telling us that financial pressures and changes to the welfare system are affecting their ability to provide suitable accommodation, this cannot be a justification for failing to meet statutory duties. The impact of not providing a safe and suitable home cannot be underestimated.”
The LGA said that councils often had “little choice” but to use temporary accommodation and that a borrowing cap which prevented councils from building additional homes was contributing to the problem.
Cllr Mike Jones, chairman of the LGA's Environment and Housing Board, said: “This report highlights why the Government must, as a matter of urgency, lift the borrowing cap which is preventing councils from building up to an additional 60,000 new homes over the next five years.”
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Image c. Trowbridge Estate