Homelessness in England reaches five-year high

6 June 2013

Temporary housing June

Government figures released today show that the number of homeless households in England has risen by 6% over the past year, to the highest in five years.

The figures also show a 14% rise in the number of people living in B&Bs. Shelter is warning that cuts to the housing safety net, added to the rising cost of housing, are already having a real impact.

B&B-style accommodation often means a single room for an entire family with no cooking facilities and a shared bathroom, sometimes miles away from their jobs and support networks. Though there is a legal requirement limiting this to six weeks for families, many have to stay in this situation for weeks, or even months.

Shelter is also worried that today’s figures mask a further group of ‘hidden homeless’; families who have lost their home but may not be counted in official statistics due to recent changes in the way councils handle homelessness applications.

Just one small thing, like an illness, can tip a family into homelessness. Amy experienced this first-hand when her partner lost his job and they were unable to pay rent. They had to live in a B&B with their 7-month-old baby, staying in a single room with no cooking facilities for 10 weeks. Amy found it impossible to care for her baby properly as she couldn’t sterilise the feeding bottles, or heat up baby food.

Amy came to Shelter for help and our advisers helped to permanently house the family. They are now living in a flat and finally feel settled. Amy said: ‘It was very traumatic for us, and I hated having no choice but to live somewhere without the facilities to properly look after my baby.’

While cuts to the housing safety net are already hitting families hard, there are more to come, including the overall benefit cap to be implemented between April and September 2013.

These cuts could leave councils unable to pay for temporary accommodation for homeless families. As a result, even more families could be placed in B&B-style accommodation miles away from their jobs, schools and support networks.

Campbell Robb, Chief Executive of Shelter, said: ‘Behind these numbers are thousands of families up and down the country who have lost the battle to stay in their homes.

‘Shelter advisers are hearing from families every day who are at breaking point and simply cannot make their money go far enough.

‘To give families a chance to get back on their feet the Government must exempt temporary accommodation from the benefit cap, so that councils can find families somewhere to live within their local area if they lose their home.’

For independent advice visit shelter.org.uk/advice or call Shelter’s free helpline on 0808 800 4444.