The Local Government Association (LGA) has released its latest figures on homeless families in England. It has recorded a massive jump in the number of children in temporary accommodation. But it also found a 52% increase in homeless families outside of London. And the LGA points the finger of blame directly at both Sajid Javid’s Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and central government.
The LGA says [pdf p4] that the number of homeless families in temporary accommodation has hit 77,240; a 10% increase on the previous year. But within this figure is a 37% increase in the number of homeless children since 2014. That figure now stands at 120,540; or an average of 906 children being made homeless every month.
It says the main causes of family homelessness are:
- Loss of rented housing – 39%.
- Relatives or friends no longer able to provide a place to stay – 26%.
- Breakdown of a relationship – 17%.
Since 2014 there has been a 25% increase [pdf p6] in homeless families in London (now 54,280), and a 52% increase outside of London (22,950). And the number of families made homeless due to the loss of a privately rented home has increased [pdf p6] by more than 400% since 2009. The LGA says [pdf p16] “these levels are unprecedented since… records began in 1998”.
Also, the LGA says [pdf p15] the net cost of temporary accommodation has increased by around 300%, from £50.9m in 2009/10 to £146.5m in 2015/16. And it warned [pdf p15] this was “likely to be an underestimate”.
But the LGA is clear in where part of the problem lies. And it’s with central government.
A backdrop of ‘not bothered’
It says [pdf p6] that “councils want to end homelessness by preventing it happening in the first place”. But it points [pdf p4] to the “unavailability of affordable housing”, problems [pdf p9] with the benefit cap and Universal Credit, a lack [pdf p9] of finance from the DCLG to councils for house building and a £5.8bn funding gap by 2020 as all exacerbating homelessness.
LGA Housing spokesperson Martin Tett said:
When councils are having to house the equivalent of an extra secondary school’s worth of pupils every month… it’s clear the current situation is unsustainable for councils. Whilst the government’s indication it will explore ways to enable councils to build more homes is encouraging, these new homes can’t appear overnight, and the demand is urgent.
Councils are working hard to tackle homelessness, with some truly innovative work around the country – and we now need the government to support this local effort by allowing councils to invest in building genuinely affordable homes, and taking steps to adapt welfare reforms to ensure housing remains affordable for low-income families.
One homeless child is too many
The Guardian reported that a DCLG spokesperson said the government is investing £550m to help tackle homelessness, adding:
The number of children living in temporary accommodation is down from its peak in 2006. But any increase in the number of homeless families is always a concern.
But we need to view the figures by the LGA in a wider context: one of rampant poverty and inequality and four million children living below the breadline. It is entirely unacceptable, and tragic, that in 2017 the government is failing so many children, all while the rich have simply got richer.
Government officials, especially Javid, should hang their heads in shame.
– Support homelessness group Streets Kitchen.
– Read more from The Canary on homelessness and the housing crisis.
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