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‘Hidden homeless’ must be recognised in government figures, says charity

The number of people living in unsupported temporary accommodation (UTA) is almost ten times higher than official figures, research has shown.

Research carried out by Justlife, ‘Lifting the lid on hidden homelessness: A new analysis,’ reveals that in the last 12 months, there were over 51,500 individuals and families living in bed and breakfast (B&B) accommodation in England, compared to government figures of just 5,870.

The researchers also argue that there are many more people in other types of unsupported temporary accommodation.

The charity sent a Freedom of Information (FoI) request to all 326 local authorities in English asking how many private tenants were claiming housing benefits from B&Bs between 2010-11 and 2015-16.

Between these dates there was an increase in local authority placements of people into B&B accommodation, along with a reduction in so called “self-placement”.

Justlife believes that this reduction is, in part, due to the implementation of Universal Credit, under which B&B landlords will receive smaller housing payments, leading to some landlords no longer accepting residents claiming Universal Credit.

It suggests that this may be linked to the increase in the numbers of people sleeping rough which England has seen, given that many individuals cycle between sleeping rough and UTA.

Another recent report by Crisis and the Joseph Rowntree Founation suggested that there could be 100,000 people living in temporary accommodation by 2020.

Following the research, Justlife has warned that where people are hidden, they are not heard and their needs are not met.

The report calls for recognition of the close relationship between UTA and more commonly recognised forms of homelessness in attempts to address the problem in England because “there are far more hidden homeless households living in UTA than most of us in England are aware.”

It recommends that those living in UTA are included in the formal definitions of homelessness, including those used by the government, and advises that the government should record and publish the number of licences living in UTA as part of its wider reporting of homelessness statistics.

It also calls for private B&B accommodation to be included in the exceptions to Universal Credit, ensuring awards of housing benefit to residents of B&Bs are under the higher ‘board and attendance’ rate, as opposed to Local Housing Allowance.

Finally, the study recommends the creation of a temporary accommodation board in each local authority area, ensuring that UTA would no longer operate outside of scope of relevant agencies and stakeholders.

The charity said: “It is time for change, we need to stop merely watching and commentating on this appalling situation and work together, local authorities, residents, landlords, services, health professionals and politicians.”

Top image: rowbridge Estate


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