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by administrator @, Tuesday, December 14, 2010, 13:12

Increases of up to 30% in some homelessness figures are a worrying trend, according to Homeless Link.

The figures, released by the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG), are part of its quarterly report on Statutory Homelessness in England, and showed that “acceptances” (where a local authority has found a household to be in “priority need”) have “increased in two consecutive quarters for the first time since 2003.”

The number of applicants accepted as eligible for homelessness duty during July to September was 14% higher than the same quarter in 2009 and 12 per cent higher than April to June. The number of households living in bed and breakfast accommodation has increased by almost 30% on the same period last year. They follow a recent report from Broadway that the numbers flowing onto the streets in London has risen by 19% over the last quarter.

Jenny Edwards, Chief Executive of Homeless Link, said: “These are worrying numbers. Set against the current context of housing benefit changes and the prospect of serious cuts to funding for homelessness charity services, the full effects of which have not yet been felt, we have to consider how our cities will handle the potential for greater numbers of homeless people to need help.”

The report points out that the number of households in temporary accommodation is still in decline, pointing out “a long term downward trend in the number of households in temporary accommodation with seasonally adjusted figures falling in each successive quarter since the peak in 2004”.

However, last week's figures suggest strongly that the decreasing trend has slowed in the last two quarters, while this substantial increase in acceptances signals the possibility that the trend might be set to reverse. Another worrying figure is a rise of 23% in the numbers of young people accepted as homeless – the group that is most at risk of unemployment.

Edwards said: “Yet these figures are only a small part of the overall picture of homelessness. They only cover people considered by local authorities to be a priority. They exclude single people or couples without dependent children, or those who otherwise do not fit into the statutory definition of homelessness. Many people living on the street, in hostels and other forms of temporary accommodation fall into this category of non-statutory homeless.

“Options in the private rented sector, which should be a viable route for many, will become more limited from April. With many people already finding it difficult to sustain their PRS tenancies, Government proposals for reduced Housing Benefit make private renting less realistic for low income households, particularly with the dearth of low cost housing in many parts of the country.

“At this point following the recession we might expect to see homelessness rise. The choice is to focus policy on preventing homelessness, sustaining people in accommodation, making sure voluntary sector safety net services are available and avoiding actions that risk amplifying the problem. The voluntary sector is working flat out to stop these trends turning into numbers on the streets. It is imperative that this work is matched quickly by the right decisions from local and central government.”

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