Benefit cuts and lack of housing fuel homelessness, say charities

22 Mar 17

Homelessness among young people is being fuelled by cuts to benefits and a shortfall in housing, according to a report out today.

Charities Crisis and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) have issued warnings after a survey of councils revealed the majority of local authorities were struggling to support a growing number of homeless people.

Today’s report, which includes evidence from 162 of England’s 326 local authorities, shows 58,000 people were accepted as homeless by their council in 2015/16 – 18,000 higher than 2009/10.

The findings from state-of-the nation report The Homelessness Monitor: England - an annual independent study funded by Crisis and JRF – show 64% of councils across England are struggling to find social tenancies for homeless people and half find it “very difficult” to assist applicants into privately rented accommodation.

Figures in the study are worse for young people and large families with 85% of responding councils having difficulties assisting single people aged 25-34 into accommodation and 88% finding it difficult to house large families.

Single young people are identified as being at far higher risk of homelessness than older adults due to rising unemployment, spiralling rents and declining benefit protection.

Of the survey respondents 94% stated they anticipate greater difficulties in finding accommodation for homeless 25-34 year olds in the next 2-3 years.

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, said: “The situation for the thousands who find themselves homeless in England is becoming more and more desperate each year.

“Until the number of truly affordable rented homes increases significantly, councils will continue to come under huge financial pressure, with dreadful consequences for the most vulnerable in our society.”

He said private renting was often the only choice homeless people have. Crisis is calling on the government to invest in schemes that support people into the private rented sector, such as establishing and underwriting a national rent deposit guarantee. 

“The government is already pouring billions into Help to Buy support,” she said. “What we really need is Help to Rent." 

Concerns were also raised by 89% of responding councils over the roll out of Universal Credit.

The report cites fears that this will exacerbate homelessness, mainly due to the potential impact on landlords’ willingness to let to homeless people.

Many homeless people have been placed in temporary accommodation, the national total up by 9% in the year to 30 June 2016, a rise of 52% compared to 2009/10. 

Martin Tett, housing spokesman at the Local Government Association, said: “Faced with increasing demand, funding cuts, falling social housing and wide-ranging welfare reforms, it is increasingly difficult for councils to find emergency care and accommodation for all homeless people, particularly those who are young, vulnerable, or with families.

Councils desperately need the powers and access to funding to resume their historic role as a major builder of affordable homes, he added. 

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