Lord Bird calls for immediate action to prevent mass homelessness crisis

Big Issue founder Lord John Bird is due to lead a debate in Parliament on Thursday asking for immediate action to prevent a mass homelessness crisis.

Lord Bird is expected to ask that the Government take note of the combined impact of the end of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, the reduction in Universal Credit, and the rise in fuel prices on people’s ability to afford to stay in their homes.

He will warn that if action is not taken now, it threatens to put many thousands of people at risk of losing their homes.

The Big Issue is campaigning for an end to no-fault evictions as well as money to pay off rent arrears or help those unable to pay their rent or mortgage due to Covid-19.

Lord Bird said that over the course of the pandemic, £360 million in rent arrears built up, which has affected 558,000 Universal Credit claimants and 431,820 households in the private rented sector.

He said: “We must act now to support people to stay in their homes, otherwise they will slip into the costly and mentally damaging world of homelessness.

“I was pleased to hear the Government listened to our call to keep people in their homes with the provision of a £65 million support package for vulnerable renters.

“It is vital that they are taking preventative action to ensure people will not be left homeless this winter.

“The end of furlough and the lift of the eviction ban have posed a very grave danger to everyday families and individuals who are struggling to make ends meet as a result of Covid-19 poverty.

“However, further action must be taken if we are to prevent a mass homelessness crisis.

“The cost of homelessness is estimated at £14,800 to a local authority over a year, and this does not take into account the physical damage that would do to the NHS, Social Services, schools and our streets.

“The cost of fully paying off rent arrears is substantially less than the cost of letting someone slip into homelessness. So, that is why I am urging the Government today to take action and stop mass homelessness.”

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