Numbers of households and children in temporary accommodation hit record highs

The numbers of households and children in temporary accommodation in England are at record highs, according to the latest official homelessness statistics.

Some 104,510 households were in temporary accommodation by the end of March – a 25-year high.

The total number of children in this situation is also at the highest level since records for that measure began in 2004 – with 131,370 children living in temporary accommodation as of the end of March this year.

The latest figures, released by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, have been described as “very worrying” by Riverside, an organisation which describes itself as the largest provider of accommodation for people affected by homelessness.

Homelessness charity Crisis said the statistics show “the crippling cost that years of no investment in housing benefit, and a shameful lack of social house building”, while Shelter called for the Government to take “decisive action, not lip service, before this crisis gets even worse”.

Of the 104,510 households in temporary accommodation by the end of March – a high since records began in 1998 – 64,940 were households with children.

Both of these figures are up by about 10% on the same period last year.

Households needing help from local authorities because they were homeless or threatened with homelessness by March this year rose 5.7% on the same period last year, to 83,240.

Of the 41,950 households assessed as homeless and therefore owed a relief duty – help to secure settled accommodation – by their local authority between January and March this year, 11,250 were households with children – up 12.1% from the same quarter last year.

Of the households in temporary accommodation in the first quarter of the year, 13,780 were living in bed and breakfasts (B&Bs). This is up by more than a third (37.4%) from the same time last year.

The number of households in B&Bs with dependent children rose by 131.2% to 3,930 households by the end of March.

Of these, 1,840 had been living there for more than the statutory limit of six weeks, the Government said.

The Homelessness (Suitability of Accommodation) (England) Order 2003, which came in in 2004, prohibits the use of B&Bs for families except in an emergency and even then for no longer than six weeks.

A Government spokesperson said that while temporary accommodation “ensures no family is without a roof over their head”, it has “been clear that the use of B&Bs is always a last resort”.

This up 14.3% from 1,610 in the previous quarter, and has more than doubled from the 670 figure at the end of March 2022.

The number of households who were rough sleeping when they approached their local authority for help was up by almost a fifth (18.2%) from the first quarter last year, to 3,770 households.

The most common reason for households being owed a prevention duty – aimed at preventing a household threatened with homelessness within 56 days from becoming homeless – was that a private rental tenancy had come to an end.

This accounted for 14,530 or 38.3% of households and was up by 2.5% from the same quarter last year.

Giving a breakdown, the department said the most common recorded reasons were that a landlord was selling or re-letting the property (9,180 households), unknown or other reasons (2,320), and rent arrears due to change in personal circumstances (800).

The latest figures come a day after Housing Secretary Michael Gove expressed his commitment to the Conservative manifesto commitment to build 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s – but did not say when it would be reached.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s official spokesman also stated that the Government is on course to meet its target of building one million homes between 2019 and 2024.

But Matt Downie (pictured), chief executive at Crisis, said: “The Westminster Government may have declared victory yesterday on a pledge to build one million homes in this parliament, but these figures highlight how out of touch they are.

“Until the Westminster Government grasps the severity of this situation, we will not see change.”

Rick Henderson, chief executive of Homeless Link, the national membership charity for frontline homelessness organisations, said the latest statistics “make distressing reading” and described the current situation as “dire”.

Polly Neate, chief executive at Shelter, said: “With record numbers of people becoming homeless, the time for empty words on building social homes and overdue promises on ending no fault evictions has long past”.

She said “genuinely affordable homes” are needed and urged the Government to “get on and build” social homes.

The Salvation Army said there are “thousands more people looking down the cliff edge of homelessness for whom time is running out” as it called for housing benefits to be “urgently raised to cover the cost of rent”, warning that otherwise “the homelessness crisis will only worsen”.

John Glenton, executive director of Riverside Care and Support, said efforts in previous years to tackle homelessness did work and should be renewed, such as more investment in homeless hostels, supported housing and move-on accommodation and a focus on rehabilitation as well as specialist mental health teams for people affected by homelessness.

He added: “While some of these services are being offered by some providers now, the implementation of it is patchy and inconsistent, and limited by short-term commissioning.”

A Government spokesperson insisted it is “determined to prevent homelessness before it occurs” and outlined help it has previously given in the sector, including £2 billion over three years to help local authorities tackle homelessness and rough sleeping.

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2023, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Youtube.