Chancellor Pledges More To Tackle Homelessness Crisis

The Chancellor has pledged more funding to tackle homelessness in the latest spending round but failed to discuss the housing sector and how money will be allocated to tackle the housing crisis.

Whilst the Ministry of Housing Community and Local Government budget is set to increase by 2.7% for 2019/2020, little was said on how this money would be used to tackle the housing crisis.

The issue of homelessness was considered with an additional £54 million being put into the kitty to prevent homelessness from increasing further. However, many have commented that the £422 committed to combating the issue is still failing to address a number of problems with the current approaches including temporary accommodation solutions.

According to a recent report, ‘Bleak Houses – Tackling the Crisis of Family Homelessness in England,’ completed by the Children’s Commissioner, it is estimated that 585,000 children are either homeless or live their lives with the persistent threat of finding themselves living on the streets.

Official statistics indicate that 124,000 children in England live in temporary accommodation. However, the Children’s Commissioner report has found that these figures significantly under report the actual problem.

The Children’s Commissioner claims 92,000 children were living in ‘sofa-surfing’ families in 2016/17. This means that the actual figure for homeless children stands at 210,000 when those living in temporary accommodation are combined with ‘sofa surfers.’

Furthermore, the term ‘temporary’ has been used far too liberally with 4 in 10 children, equivalent to 51,000, living in this state of purgatory for over six months. In extreme cases, 1 in 20 children, over 6,000 young people, spent more than a year without a fixed and permanent abode last year.

It seems as though the care system is struggling to house the multitude of homeless youths with more ad hoc housing solutions like B&Bs, office block conversions and even shipping containers used.

By December 2018, 2,420 families were known to be living in cramped B&B accommodation with their families with a third remaining in these conditions for more than six weeks at a time, even though this is considered unlawful.

Of the total figure, 23,000 families were displaced and forced to live outside their home council area, causing intense disruption to children and their families.

The looming threat of 375,000 children living in homes suffering from rent arrears and financial risk could put too much pressure on a care system already failing its young people. More intervention and help is desperately needed to ensure the care system prevents these statistics from increasing in the future.

Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England, commenting on the report, said:

“Something has gone very wrong with our housing system when children are growing up in B&Bs, shipping containers and old office blocks. Children have told us of the disruptive and at times frightening impact this can have on their lives. It is a scandal that a country as prosperous as ours is leaving tens of thousands of families in temporary accommodation for long periods of time, or to sofa surf.

“It is essential that the Government invests properly in a major house-building programme and that it sets itself a formal target to reduce the number of children in temporary accommodation.”

Caroline Lucas, Green MP, said:

“This country has been facing a housing crisis for decades and the Chancellor has not addressed it.

“A shortfall of 3m social homes, young families facing a lifetime in expensive and insecure private rented accommodation, thousands pushed into temporary accommodation when they are evicted.

“This is a national scandal.

“Lying behind it is the mass privatisation of Right to Buy, the failure to invest in new council housing, and relying on the private sector to provide homes, a policy that has comprehensively failed – except to deliver mass profits to a handful of large house builders and obscenely high salary to their bosses.

“More than 1,500 households are in temporary accommodation, two thirds of them households with children. That’s more than three times the rate in the rest of England.

“Housing benefit is completely inadequate to meet the soaring costs of private rents. The Government should end the cruel freeze on the Local Housing Allowance. Keeping it artificially low is pushing families into rent arrears, debt and homelessness.

“We need a mass programme of zero-carbon council housing and, for this to happen, the swingeing local government funding cuts must be reversed and funding provided so our councils can invest in bricks and mortar to keep people housed and deliver vital local services.”

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