Housing

Local authorities blame government cuts for homelessness rise, says report

Benefit cap and access to welfare assistance are 'undermining' councils and housing associations in tackling the issue ahead of the Homelessness Reduction Act

The majority of councils have placed the blame for the rise in homelessness in the UK on government welfare reforms, claims a new report.

The study, carried out by the Chartered Institute of Housing and the University of Sheffield, found that 84 per cent of the 106 councils and 70 per cent of the 50 housing associations surveyed believed that the likes of the lower benefit cap are negatively impacting their work in housing.

Changing to funding levels were also undermining the contribution that could be made to tackling homelessness, according to 71 per cent of housing associations and 72 per cent of local authorities.

The most common reasons for housing associations rejecting homeless households’ nominations was a limited entitlement to welfare assistance.

If the government is serious about tackling our homelessness crisis it must urgently consider how it can create a policy framework which supports, and not undermines, what councils and housing associations can achieve together

More than 60 per cent of local councils reported that lack of funds stopped families from being housed while 49 per cent of housing associations agreed that it was the biggest hurdle.

Half of the social housing groups also cited unmet social needs as a primary reason for families being turned down for homes.

The survey was issued to all 353 local authorities and 449 housing associations in the UK ahead of the launch of the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017, which is set to be brought in next year.

The act will place a greater emphasis on prevention with greater statutory obligations on local authorities step in before families and individuals are forced out of homes from April 2018.

Councils cannot tackle homelessness on their own – they need help

To implement this, the councils across the UK will receive a share of £61 million transitional funding up to 2020 to support its implementation.

Terrie Alafat, the chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing, said: “This research shows that welfare policy is seriously undermining the work that councils and housing associations can do to reduce homelessness.

“The government has stated its commitment to tackling homelessness and the Homelessness Reduction Act, which comes into effect next year, represents significant progress. But it is also clear that welfare policy is directly undermining that effort.

“Policies like the lower benefit cap are leaving people with significant gaps between the help they get with housing costs and their rent and this research highlights the direct impact that is having on the work councils and housing associations are trying to do together to help those most in need.

“We know from experience that tackling homelessness is possible but it requires a commitment from all government departments. If the government is serious about tackling our homelessness crisis it must urgently consider how it can create a policy framework which supports, and not undermines, what councils and housing associations can achieve together to tackle this huge problem.”

Professor David Robinson, from the University of Sheffield, who worked on the project, said: “The introduction of the Homeless Reduction Act has been widely welcomed. The act gives councils important new responsibilities and powers. However, councils cannot tackle homelessness on their own – they need help.

“Evidence that the vital role that housing associations traditionally play helping councils to reduce homelessness is being undermined is therefore deeply concerning. These findings underline why we urgently need a coordinated effort to tackle homelessness.”

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