Town halls meet targets to cut families in B&B

20 Nov 03
Councils are winning their battle to reduce the use of bed and breakfast accommodation for homeless families.

21 November 2003

Councils are winning their battle to reduce the use of bed and breakfast accommodation for homeless families.

Ministers confirmed on November 17 that, from April 2004, it will be unlawful for families with children to be placed in B&B for more than emergency periods of six weeks.

But many authorities, including some in London, have already drastically cut the use of B&B and are confident they will hit the new requirement next year.

Lambeth has taken advantage of new housing subsidy rules that encourage councils to house families in private accommodation and has even set up a special lettings service with private landlords.

No family has spent more than six weeks in B&B since July. 'We still use it for one or two nights but then we move people on,' said Winston Brown, senior development manager in Lambeth's temporary housing services department.

Since August 2002, Tower Hamlets has cut the number of families in B&B from 250 to ten. Just one family currently in B&B has been there for more than six weeks and is due to move out next week.

Hackney has five families in B&B but none has been there more than six weeks. 'It's not an area where we are worried about meeting government targets,' said a spokeswoman.

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister offers grants totalling £15m to councils with innovative solutions. Colchester uses these to make 'goodwill payments' of £75 per week so families at risk of becoming homeless can live with friends or relatives.

The council has not placed a family in B&B for more than six weeks since April this year. 'The ODPM has backed up its targets with money,' said Peter McDonagh, homelessness team leader in Colchester.

But the Local Government Association remains strongly opposed to the new law, which will be an Order under the 1996 Housing Act. It claims councils will be encouraged to shift money away from other vulnerable groups, including the mentally ill. 'It's a perverse incentive to place people in other accommodation which may not be suitable,' said senior LGA project officer Ruth Lucas.


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