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Housing

More than 67,000 households needed help with homelessness in the summer

The number of households requiring support in England fell four per cent overall but there was a surge in households with children needing help.

More than 67,000 households required support from local councils because they were homeless or at risk of homelessness last summer, according to official statistics.

The overall number of households in England requiring support fell more than four per cent between July and September 2021 and the same period in the previous year.

Overall, the number of households assessed as homeless was also down four per cent to 36,510 households but there has been a surge in the number of households with children assessed as homeless.

Almost 10,000 households with children needed help from councils to relieve homelessness in July to September 2021 – 15 per cent higher than the same period in 2020 and more than eight per cent ahead of 2019 before the pandemic. 

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However, the statutory homelessness statistics revealed a surge in households facing a ‘no-fault eviction’ following the end of Covid restrictions preventing bailiff-enforced evictions in May 2021.

More than 4,400 households were threatened with eviction through a Section 21 notice – when a landlord is not required to give a reason for evicting a tenant – during the period, up 60 per cent on the same period in 2020 and 35 per cent higher than in April and June 2021.

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Shelter chief executive Polly Neate said the statistics showed nearly 400 people were made homeless every day over the three-month period and the charity has seen that impact on their helplines.

“The end of the eviction ban has triggered a rising tide of homelessness that could turn into a flood,” said Neate. “No-one should have to face homelessness alone, which is why we urgently need the public’s support so that we can keep picking up the phone and give anyone who needs it free and expert help.”  

There was also a small increase in the number of households living in temporary accommodation, up 1.5 per cent when compared to the same period in 2020.

Separate government statistics, also released on Thursday, revealed how much relying on short-term housing is costing councils. The stats showed at least £1.4bn had been spent on housing people in temporary accommodation in the last financial year.

Matt Downie, chief executive at Crisis, said more affordable homes are need while housing benefit should also be unfrozen to prevent rising homelessness, especially in the face of the ongoing cost of living crisis.

“Over a billion pounds has been spent in one year to extend people’s homelessness rather than end it. That is a false economy with a devastating human cost,” said Downie.

“It is near impossible for anyone to rebuild their lives when they are cramped into one room, sometimes miles away from their support networks and often with no facilities to wash their clothes or cook their own meals. “

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The latest figures come in the week that Centrepoint revealed almost 122,000 young people aged under 25 had approached their council for help with homelessness in the first year of the pandemic.

The record-high figure, which is based on freedom of information requests to local authorities, covered a time when the Westminster government launched the Everyone In scheme to protect people experiencing street homelessness from Covid-19.

Ministers also introduced the furlough scheme, the eviction ban and increased universal credit by £20 a week to prevent rising homelessness.

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However, Centrepoint warned that despite the increased focus on homelessness, a third of youngsters – an all-time low – were not assessed by councils to determine their support needs despite requirements under the Homelessness Reduction Act. 

The youth homelessness charity also uncovered a rise in the number of young people who became homeless due to family breakdown during the pandemic. Family clashes pushed almost half of the youngsters into homelessness compared to 45 per cent in 2019/20.

Domestic abuse played a significant role in youth homelessness with 5,926 young people – almost 10 per cent – facing homelessness due to the issue, up from 4,530 youngsters at last count.

Balbir Chatrik, Centrepoint’s director of policy, said: “This year we have seen the number of young people facing homelessness rise at a time when the government pulled out all the stops to prevent people ending up on the streets.

“Even more concerning though is the fact that an increasing number of these young people were not even assessed, let alone given the support they so desperately needed.   

“This simply shouldn’t be happening – but the experience of the last year or so makes clear the current approach of throwing money at piecemeal rough sleeping initiatives won’t change things. Instead, if ministers want to see rough sleeping end and homelessness reduced they can start by ensuring the act is properly resourced.”

The Big Issue has been calling for action to prevent rising homelessness through the Stop Mass Homelessness campaign.

The campaign urged central government to support renters in arrears and to focus on training in sustainable jobs to prevent people affected by Covid-19’s impact from falling into homelessness. Head here to find out more about the campaign and how you can get involved.

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