Crisis say that the impact of housing benefit cuts is more people are homeless, and families with children and young people are the most affected.
The report by Crisis, the Homelessness Monitor shows the impact of the economic downturn and policy developments on homelessness across the UK
It highlights how reforms to welfare and housing, particularly cuts to housing benefit, are already having a negative impact on society. It is contributing to making more people vulnerable to homelessness, especially as it is combined with the continuing economic downturn.
Crisis think there is much worse yet to come, and young people and families with children will continue to be the worst affected.
Key findings of the research:
- The number of people sleeping rough has risen 23% over the past year. In London, it has risen 43% which is the highest rise since the 90’s.
- Since 2009 there has been a 34% increase in households accepted as homeless by their local council in each quarter. B&B hotel placements almost doubling over the past two years, with an even greater increase for families with children.
- Hidden homelessness is rising, which shows the strain and pressures on housing access.
- Almost all aspects of the coalition government’s welfare reforms have problematic implications for homelessness and the impact of the caps on Local Housing Allowanceis already apparent.
- The numbers of claimants in central London boroughs securing private rental accommodation has declined appreciably.
- Agencies report that rehousing single homeless people into private tenancies is now virtually impossible in central London and difficult even in outer London.
- Deepening cuts to benefits, especially the national cap on benefits for out-of-work households, and the gradual unwinding of the transitional arrangements for existing tenants, will have a dramatic impact on homelessness levels with widespread concern London boroughs will have to “export” homeless families to private rented accommodation in cheaper parts of the country.
- Young people have been particularly badly affected by the combined impact of benefit cuts and rising unemployment.
- The reforms in the Localism Act (2011) (in England) together with the cuts to Housing Benefit and dwindling stock of social housing will undermine the protective national ‘housing settlement’ that historically poorer households in the UK have relied to a greater degree than in many other countries.
- Almost all homeless families in the capital will be rehoused in another part of the country due to new local authority powers to discharge their duty to homeless households. This raises questions about the quality appropriateness and security of the concept.
- Private renting has nearly doubled over the past decade, with demand soaring as first-time buyers cannot get on the housing ladder and others cannot access social housing. The extent to which the private rented sector can be used to house those who are homeless and/or on low incomes is heavily dependent on housing benefit and will therefore be fundamentally shaped by the Government’s welfare reforms.
- Homelessness is growing most rapidly in London and the more pressurised South of England. There is also considerable regional diversity in the causes of homelessness.
- Over the past decade Scotland has gradually expanded its statutory protection for homeless people so that by end of this year virtually all will be entitled to settled housing. There is a massive concern about the impact in welfare reforms on homeless levels in Soctland.
- The increasing risk of homelessness is heavily concentrated on the poorest and most disadvantaged, who lack the financial and/or social ‘equity’ that enables most people to deal with work or relationship crises without becoming homeless.
Crisis is urging the following changes from the Government:
- Withdraw suggestions that housing benefit could be ended for all under 25s, which could lead to tens of thousands of young people becoming homeless
- Reverse the other cuts to housing benefit and reconsider the household benefit cap and the application of stringent benefit sanctions to vulnerable homeless people
- Invest substantially in new social and affordable housing
- Ensure tackling homelessness in all its forms remains a national priority with a clear set of minimum standards and protections and is not left to a localism-driven postcode lottery
- Reform the private rented sector to improve standards, increase access and empower tenants.
Leslie Morphy, chief executive of Crisis, said:
The coalition is sweeping away the safety nets that have traditionally saved people from the horrors of homelessness. Housing benefit, the duties of local councils and the security and availability of social housing are all being cut back.
Young people are already bearing a disproportionate burden of the cuts and economic downturn, yet the government seems set to increase the pressure by abolishing housing benefit for under-25s.
The research is clear – if we carry on like this, rising rates of homelessness will accelerate – a disaster for those directly affected, and bad for us all.
Lead researcher Professor Suzanne Fitzpatrick said:
When we put all the evidence together for the Homelessness Monitor the conclusion was clear: the strain of the economic downturn, combined with radical welfare cuts and growing housing market pressures, means increasing numbers of people are going to become homeless.
As the buffers that have traditionally saved people from homelessness are dismantled we expect to see this increase accelerate – particularly with families and younger people who are being hardest hit.