The Government need to consider the future of temporary accommodation following a dramatic increase in homelessness and families using temporary accommodation, as they think to introduce a benefit cap making this service unreachable for some families.
The number of homeless families living in temporary bed and breakfast (B&B) accommodation has risen by almost half in the first few months of 2012. This comes after 2011 and 2012 also saw consecutive rises in overall numbers of homeless – the first rise in seven years – pushing homelessness up 26% in two years.
With homeless rates increasing again the demand for emergency temporary accommodation, such as B&B’s, is getting higher. National Housing Federation research found that between January and March 2011 there were 2,750 families nationwide living in B&B’s. Over the same period in 2012 this had risen to 3,960, an increase of 44%.
– National Housing Federation
Figures show that around 26,000 homeless families are staying in temporary accommodation such as houses or flats leased by local authorities and housing associations. It is there for homeless families in a time of need and gives them accommodation that is more stable and secure than B&B’s, and enables children to live a normal life and for parents to work their way out of homelessness and towards a better future. There are 20 councils are responsible for 80% of families in this situation.
However as of April 2013, there will be a new universal benefit cap to limit the total amount of benefit they can claim to just £500 per week. This will make the short term temporary accommodation that is available now too expensive and mean they are unable to rent it, essentially leaving them with the only option of pushing them back into B&Bs, and the National Housing Federation fear it will even force them back on to the streets.
The Government has not yet confirmed how the benefit cap will affect people living in temporary accommodation and what measures will be taken to protect the service.
The National Housing Federation is urging the government to think of these people when limiting this essential service. David Orr, chief executive of the NHF, says:
In a B&B whole families can find themselves sharing one room and they are often shut out of their accommodation during the day, causing huge disruption to daily routines of school and work. Every child deserves a decent home to come back to after school, where they feel secure, and where they can sit down to do their homework. That is what temporary accommodation provides.
Without the safety net of temporary accommodation, thousands more families will find themselves in a vicious cycle of homelessness.
It is essential that the Government puts in place measures to protect this crucial service and the vulnerable families who depend on it.
Mark Prisk, the Conservative housing minister, said:
There is no excuse for any family to be stuck in bed and breakfast accommodation, and we have offered support to those 20 councils who between them account for 80% of families in this situation for an unacceptably long time.
Councils have a range of options at their disposal to help anyone facing the threat of losing their home, and to help them further we’ve increased the discretionary housing pot to about £400m over the spending period to help families with the transition to the new, fairer system of benefits.