Councils condemned for forcing homeless into B&Bs
- 08 Oct
Ministers have slammed councils for forcing more and more homeless families into Bed and Breakfast hotels for unlawfully long periods, following a BBC investigating.
The BBC's Newsnight report claimed councils are increasingly forced into keeping parents and children in B&Bs for more than the government-imposed legal limit of six weeks, as councils struggle to find rented accommodation for them.
The programme even found evidence some families were staying in difficult, overcrowded and even dirty conditions in some of the hotels.
A Department for Communities and Local Government spokeswoman said:
It is unacceptable and avoidable to place families in bed and breakfast accommodation for more than a few days. The vast majority of councils fulfil their legal duty without having families stuck in B&B for over six weeks.
We are providing £400m to tackle homelessness over the spending period and councils are receiving a further £450m over this period for discretionary housing payments and to help to ease the transition of changes to the new, fairer, system of benefits.
Former housing minister Grant Shapps was forced to censure councils at the end of 2011 after 427 families were found to have been living in emergency accommodation for longer than six weeks. Mr Shapps also warned 20 councils earlier this year to improve their provisions for the homeless.
Croydon LBC were found to have spent £1.5m in the first seven months of this year on one hotel chain alone.
Housing lawyer, Jane Pritchard, is threatening to take Croydon LBC to court to force it to move long-stay families out of B&Bs:
The law provides that when you are in B&Bs as a homeless applicant and you have children with you or you are pregnant, the council should not provide you with B&B unless it's in exceptional circumstances and even then for a maximum of six weeks.
So the minute Croydon Council put someone in a B&B and are not positively looking for an alternative for them, they are acting unlawfully.
The BBC claim Croydon LBC has at least 180 long-stay B&B families, and suggest the figure could be even higher than official figures suggest.
Croydon's chief executive, Jon Rouse, rejected the accusations, saying:
We are concerned. But we are behaving legally. We review all cases on an ongoing basis and clearly aw we're coming up to that six week threshold, we're particularly concerned to see if we can identify alternative for those individual households.
The problem is the lack of availability of private rental dwellings. The introduction of caps on the local housing allowance rates means less private rented stock is available to people on benefits.
The second problem is that people who would have moved on from the private rented sector to buy their own home, haven't done so. And so again that causes a lack of availability at the lower end of the housing ladder.
Source: Local Gov
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Responding to the DWP Consultation: Housing Benefit Reform - Supported Housing "Sincere thanks to Michael Patterson for an excellent presentation on the HB Reform issues in Leeds last week, and for all the very helpful info and links. I do intend to respond on behalf of our organisation, Caring For Life, but feel that Support Solutions' response is excellent." E.S. - Caring for Life