Buy A Candle To Help The Homeless – For Only £2,021!

Love money and hate the rising rate of homelessness in the UK? This candle gives you the chance to smell one and combat the other in one fell swoop, reports the Metro.

The ‘Smells Like Capitalism’ candle by Flaming Crap gives off an aroma of a leather wallet with notes of British pounds kept specifically ‘in an off-shore account’. The candle has a burn time of 30 hours, and is made from vegan soy wax and recycled materials.

If that sounds like your kind of thing, the totally normal-sized candle can be yours for £2,021. The team at Flaming Crap aren’t without a healthy sense of irony, with all the profits from the sale of this candle going to aid homeless charities around the UK.

Oliver Burr, Co-Founder of Flaming Crap said: “Some luxury brands sell candles at a price tag of up to £1000, with little explanation of how this astronomical figure is justified. All our products are handcrafted and unable to be mass-produced, meaning we include that one quality ingredient – passion.”

Oliver added: “At Flaming Crap, we want to give back to our community and let the public realise quality comes from this passion, not always price tag and celebrity. Hopefully with our latest release we can raise money for some seriously worthy causes – and make a statement at the same time.”

Is This The End For Communal Night Shelters?

Many councils, charities and faith groups are starting to think about their local emergency winter provision and for some the prospect of communal sleeping spaces will once again be under consideration, writes Julie Cook for Homeless Link.

There are a number of factors which could influence decisions, including the further relaxation of covid restrictions, vaccination progress, rising rate of rough sleeping and the rising rate of covid infections to name just a few. For many areas, use of communal night shelters is likely to be confined to the pre-covid past. That’s the ambition in the North West, where the Manchester Homeless Partnership – an alliance of statutory, voluntary and business organisations – has set a new vision for the future of emergency accommodation in the city. Their powerful film, featuring those who have direct experience of accessing night shelters, demonstrates exactly why it is important to rethink how we provide emergency accommodation. These experiences underpin a new set of minimum standards that accompany the vision of the Partnership.

On 19th July the Government published its updated Operating Principles for Commissioners and Providers of Night Shelter Projects. Their position is to further encourage self-contained models but falls short of specifically discouraging or ruling out shared sleeping models. It emphasises that final decisions need to be taken locally with public health and local authorities. It states: “Providers and commissioners of night shelters should consider whether they can provide self-contained accommodation options. For clear safety reasons individual rooms and individual washing facilities should be the aim to appropriately protect individuals from communicable diseases such as COVID-19.” But it goes on to state: “However, we know that local circumstances may mean that there are occasions where a local area decides to put in place communal models to prevent people sleeping rough, particularly in extreme weather”.

The guidance emphasises that, should there be a decision to go ahead with communal sleeping models, projects should work closely with public health colleagues as well as local authorities, consider how they can encourage and support guests to get both vaccinations, think carefully about those who are in the ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ group and have appropriate plans for isolation of guests. Government guidance for those who are clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) was also published on 19th July and this highlights the increased risk to people who are CEV of having closer contact with people who may be infected. Many people using homelessness services and sleeping rough are likely to be in this CEV group.

The Government also funded the Homelessness Winter Transformation Fund 2021/22, which was launched earlier this year, for community and faith groups to develop new models of winter provision. The fund for this winter has increased to £3m and for the first time this includes a £1m capital funding stream to help cover the costs of adapting buildings. It will deliberately not fund shared sleeping models. The fund is being allocated through Homeless Link and Housing Justice, with awards due to be notified over the summer.

The Healthy London Partnership (a partnership of health bodies, GLA and local government to improve health and well-being in London) hosted a webinar on 19th July on managing Covid infections in homeless accommodation settings with health experts including Professors Andrew Hayward and Al Storey. This highlighted the importance of providers continuing their infection control measures to protect residents and staff in hostels and other temporary accommodation settings from the more infectious variant of Covid-19, particularly in light of the easing of many of the remaining restrictions. St Mungo’s confirmed their intentions to continue managing their settings largely unchanged too.  Much of this is set out in covid guidance for hostel commissioners and providers.

Housing Justice (HJ) commissioned independent research of organisations within their Night Shelter Network to gather information on what they did last winter in place of their usual shelter model and their future plans. A New Season For Night Shelters – Research Report for Housing Justice by Juliette Hough and Becky Rice (June 2021) showed that project models last winter were varied, including hotels and hostel accommodation (some with shared facilities and some self-contained), single room accommodation in shared houses, temporary pods/modular accommodation and provision of alternative non-accommodation support.

The headline findings of the research make for interesting reading; almost everyone interviewed – guests, volunteers, co-ordinators and partners including local authorities – strongly believed that 24-hour access, self-contained or single room emergency accommodation was more desirable than the communal, night-time-only model – providing privacy and stability for guests, and easier to access support and employment. It was also more accessible for women. However, it was more expensive, with increased accommodation and staffing costs, and usually meant that fewer people could be supported. 840 bed spaces were made available across the provider network in England between October 2020 and March 2021 compared to 2,611 in 2019/20 – a 69% decrease. HJ estimate that providing a shared house or hotel cost a minimum of £50,000-£85,000 for three months.

In terms of future provision, the research found that several local authorities stated intentions to move away from funding communal night shelter provision but the report concludes there is no single, clear dominant model yet emerging for emergency winter provision moving forward. Plans continue to be a mix of returning to the previous night shelter model, retaining elements of the new model (fixed-location, 24-hour access, self-contained accommodation), not running a shelter and expanding in particular into floating support.

HJ has published a briefing note for providers of night shelters on the new operating principles. Homeless Link will also update its guidance resources later this year for those involved in planning or providing winter or severe weather (often known as SWEP) provision and we also have resources available on vaccinations for people in homelessness settings including a range of materials produced by Groundswell.

Homeless Link’s new strategy says everyone should be able to open and close their own front door and feel safe and secure in their own accommodation. Clearly communal shelters would not meet this basic standard. However, there is an argument that in some very specific circumstances, such as when people have No Recourse to Public Funds, or where individuals sleeping rough are reluctant to engage with ‘the system’ – there is still a role for shelters.

However the situation with covid means that even under these circumstances we must do everything in our power to prevent the spread of infection, and all the evidence points to avoiding shared air facilities and having adequate provision for regular handwashing and other hygiene measures. And, of course, as the Manchester video reminds us, there is the issue of privacy and dignity for those people forced to use communal shelters as the only viable option. Perhaps more than ever before, providers and commissioners will need to ask themselves some serious questions about what to do for the best given an unprecedented set of competing priorities.

Homelessness Is On The Rise Again

Homelessness in the UK is rising after a sharp drop during the first wave of the pandemic but is still lower than pre-lockdown levels, Government figures show.

According to a report in the Evening Standard, the amount of households assessed to be homeless or at risk of homelessness between January and March this year was 68,250, a 7% increase from 63,990 in October to December last year, according to Ministry of Housing Communities & Local Government (MHCLG) data. Campaigners have warned more families could face being made homeless after the eviction ban was lifted on May 31.

Current levels are 9% lower than the number of households recorded as homeless in the first three months of 2020, while between April and June 2020 there was a sharp drop, according to the MHCLG quarterly release. The decrease coincided with the Government’s Everybody’s In strategy housing a reported 37,000 rough sleepers during the pandemic in an attempt to protect those without fixed accommodation from Covid-19. The Government’s definition of homelessness includes those in temporary accommodation, so-called “sofa-surfers”, and those of no fixed abode.

The figures come weeks after the Combined Homelessness and Information Network run by the Greater London Assembly confirmed that rough sleeping in London had returned to pre-pandemic levels. The Government pledged to end rough sleeping in its 2019 manifesto.

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: “It is a scary sign of the times that even the eviction ban couldn’t stop thousands of families becoming homeless in early 2021. Now the ban has lifted far more people could be faced with the brutal reality of homelessness. The bottom line is that there aren’t enough social homes, which has created a massive bottleneck, trapping huge numbers of people in crummy temporary accommodation.”

Ms Neate added: “How can anyone call a rat-infested room no bigger than a prison cell, home? If the country is to stand a chance of recovering from the pandemic, the government must urgently invest in a new generation of quality social housing.”

An MHCLG spokesman said: “These statistics show a reduction in the number of people needing support from homelessness services compared to the same period last year. Since the beginning of the pandemic we have taken unprecedented action to keep people in their homes and renters continue to be supported with longer notice periods of at least four months until the end of September, as well as financial help such as through the furlough scheme.”

He added: “Tackling rough sleeping and homelessness remains an absolute priority for the Government and we are spending an unprecedented £750 million over the next year to ensure we build on the progress we have made.

Missing Yorkshire Man Found Sleeping Rough – 2,000 Miles From Home!

A missing man from Huddersfield has reportedly been found dazed and confused in Lapland – 2,175miles (3,5000km) away – in northern Sweden with the help of social media.

Nial Atkin’s family have been trying to track him down since he disappeared in May last year but now a Swedish man thinks he has found him in Kiruna, Sweden, reports the Mirror. Jerry Ahlqvist had been trying to find out the identity of the homeless man he had found disoriented in the street via a Facebook appeal. He now believes that man is Nial and in his latest post said that he has spoken to his mother after his social media message seeking his identity had been shared widely.

He wrote last Saturday: “So yesterday I found a homeless person that was acting a bit strange, he seemed confused and was just walking back and forth. I brought him home and cleaned him, gave him some food and new clothes, and a clean bed to sleep in. He is kind of hard to communicate with, he gets lost in his thoughts, takes a long time to answer questions and he just stares into nothing. He has told me some information about himself but he ends every sentence with ‘sort of’ so the information can also be incorrect.” He added that Nial said he was 26 and worked in IT near Leeds.

Jerry also set up a GoFundMe page to raise money to bring Nial home from Sweden. The Facebook messaged continued: “I can’t help the feeling that his family is concerned about his whereabouts and maybe looking for him, also he is confused and he is not capable of taking care of himself. Anyway he is currently in a small town called Kiruna way up north in Sweden. I think he needs some help but I don’t know what to do? Help me help him? Share and try finding his family?” Police in the UK had thought that Nial had gone to Scotland where social media was being used to track him.

Jerry has now updated his Facebook page with: “We have found his mother and I have spoken with her on the phone. Everything will be sorted out. The thing is that Nial is in a psychotic state and he does not know what he wants or what’s best for him. But we will figure this out. His mother knows and understands because she has a psychiatric education and I know and understand because I have myself gone through treatment for schizophrenia and have suffered psychosis myself so I saw the signs from across the streets.”

He added: “Everything will be okay and we will try to get the proper treatment for him! THANK YOU ALL FOR YOUR ENGAGEMENT! We did it!”

West Yorkshire Police have confirmed that a Swedish resident had been in touch over Nial’s disappearance. It said: “Kirklees Police were contacted on Sunday July 11 2021 by a caller who made a missing person’s report about a 26-year-old male who was said to be missing and believed to be in Sweden. Officers have now spoken with a resident in Sweden who has confirmed they have had contact with the missing person and enquiries currently remain ongoing.”

The Foreign Office is also reportedly offering support for the family.

Homeless Link Launch Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Strategy

The murder of George Floyd in May 2020 prompted a mass, global outpouring of anger that people from Black and other minority backgrounds were still experiencing racism on a regular basis.

It also prompted organisations that claimed to be ‘anti-racist’ and pro-equalities to take a long, hard look at themselves and wonder if they were doing enough. Homeless Link was one such organisation and the answer that came back was that, despite our best intentions, there is still much work to do. With this in mind we created an internal cross-organisational Equalities and Diversity Working Group (EDWG) tasked with reviewing our approach to issues of EDI but through an anti-racist lens. The group brought energy, passion and lived experience to the task at hand and has really opened up the conversation for all staff.

At the same time, the Homeless Link Board of Trustees was asking questions about whether it was diverse enough and thinking about positive actions it could take to increase diversity in all its forms, while embracing lived experience. The Board wanted a joined up, strategic approach to addressing Equalities Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) at every level of our work: in our governance; in our team; in our member organisations; for people experiencing homelessness; and in the changes we argue for from government and wider society.

With this brief in mind, we set about drafting a three year EDI strategy that set clear targets for increasing equalities, diversity and inclusion in all of these areas. That strategy, called ‘Commitment to Change’ has now been published and will form the basis of an extensive programme of positive action over the coming years. In it we pledge to take key actions, to make sure that this commitment amounts to more than just words on a page. For example, we will carry out a fundamental review of our recruitment practices to identify opportunities to improve equality, diversity and inclusion in the way we advertise, interview for and select candidates, as well as ensuring current staff are regularly consulted on their experience of EDI issues in the workplace. We will also seek to improve the diversity of our trustees.

Elsewhere, we will aim to take a leadership role in championing EDI across the homelessness sector, supporting our members’ own work by producing and disseminating good practice materials, holding events and providing training, and stimulating debate and exchange of information. And we will fight to challenge poor practice and discriminatory behaviour towards people experiencing homelessness.

We recently ran a webinar on anti-racism, policy and practice in the homelessness sector from which the words of one of our staff members really stuck with me. She said: “people of colour don’t have the option of not talking about race and racism as it’s their constant lived experience.” I hope we can encourage other organisations working in the field of homelessness prevention to join us on a journey towards true equity for all citizens.

New Government Legislation Threatens Rough Sleepers

Leading homelessness charities have made an unprecedented joint plea to UK ministers to reconsider the police and crime bill, warning it could in effect criminalise large numbers of people simply for being homeless, reports The Guardian.

In a letter to Robert Jenrick, the housing and communities secretary, seen by the Guardian, 13 charities and housing groups said urgent changes were needed to the bill to avoid the risk of people being arrested and imprisoned for sleeping rough. The police, crime, sentencing and courts bill passed through the Commons last week and will now be considered in the Lords. It features a series of highly controversial elements, including a ban on protests that are viewed as too noisy or that “alarm” the public. Another section of the bill has been condemned for risking the viability of Traveller and Gypsy lifestyles by criminalising many trespass offences, with people risking fines, imprisonment or confiscation of vehicles – which in the case of Travellers are often also their homes.

The letter, signed by the heads of Shelter, Crisis, St Mungo’s, the Chartered Institute of Housing and others, said they believed the bill should be scrapped. If it goes ahead, they added, ministers should amend it to lessen any impact on homeless people. It said: “As currently drafted, the legislation risks putting any person who resorts to living in a car, van or other vehicle – or indeed has a vehicle parked near where they may be sleeping rough – at risk of arrest and imprisonment if they have been asked to leave by the landowner or police.”

“While this could apply in rural areas it could also apply in city centre car parks, a public road or private driveway. Many people experiencing homelessness sleep in cars, or in tents with their vehicle nearby, such as people who have work vehicles, eg for delivery driving. We recognise that the government has said it does not intend for these people to be caught by the offence but ask for clarification to the bill to ensure this.”

The letter also calls for further details on the meaning in the bill of “residing” in terms of allowing police to take action if this is done without permission of the landowner. “Case law concerning residential tenancies suggests that a person can only be considered to ‘reside’ if they have settled or intend to settle in a place, not if they were compelled to stay there on an emergency or short-term basis,” the organisations said. “People who are street homeless have to sleep somewhere.”

They told Jenrick: “We are pleased to be working with you on your commitment to end rough sleeping for good and are concerned this legislation would make that goal harder.” Noting the ministers had agreed to repeal an 1824 law that targets rough sleeping and begging, the letter said: “It would be deeply unfortunate if this new legislation meant that, almost 200 years later from the Vagrancy Act, we saw further criminalisation of people sleeping rough by a modern-day police bill.”

A government spokesperson said: “The offence in the policing bill applies only to those residing on, or intending to reside on, land with a vehicle who cause significant damage, disruption or distress. “Our Homelessness Reduction Act has already helped nearly 350,000 households into more permanent accommodation and we’re investing £750m over the next year alone to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping.”

New Government Drugs Initiative Could Help Homeless Drug Users

A new drugs unit will be set up to help end illegal drug-related illness and deaths, the government has announced.

The Joint Combating Drugs Unit will bring together multiple government departments – including the Department of Health and Social Care, Home Office, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, Department for Work and Pensions, Department for Education and Ministry of Justice – to help tackle drugs misuse across society. This joint approach recognises that treatment alone is not enough and wider support, including with housing and employment, is essential to aid recovery. There are now an estimated 300,000 opiate or crack users in England, and around one million people using cocaine per year. Drug misuse poisoning deaths are at a record high, having increased by nearly 80% since 2012.

It comes as Professor Dame Carol Black published the second part of her Independent Review of Drugs, which sets out more than 30 recommendations to government to help overcome the harm drugs have caused to individuals, families and communities across the country. The report calls for significant investment in the drug treatment and recovery system so that more people can get the support they need.

The review recommends the government must work together to improve treatment, employment, housing support and the way people with addictions are treated in the criminal justice system. It recommends addiction be recognised as a chronic health condition, requiring long-term follow up. The report says there’s an urgent need to reinforce the treatment workforce to raise standards and restore morale, while national leadership needs to be strengthened to reduce supply and help people get off and stay off drugs.

Professor Dame Carol Black said: “Drug deaths are at an all-time high and drug addiction fuels many costly social problems, including homelessness and rising demands on children’s social care. The government faces an unavoidable choice: invest in tackling the problem or keep paying for the consequences. A whole-system approach is needed and this part of my review offers concrete proposals, deliverable within this parliament, to achieve this. The rise in drug misuse poisoning deaths has been driven by increases in heroin deaths that have doubled in this time and other substances such as cocaine have seen notable recent increases. The proportion of 11 to 15-year-olds who use drugs has increased in recent years with one in three 15-year-olds saying they took drugs in the last year.”

Rosanna O’ Connor, Director of Drugs, Alcohol, Tobacco and Justice at Public Health England said: “Drug treatment services save lives and help many people recover from drug dependence, improving not only their lives but those of their families, their communities and wider society. We know treatment works and so it’s essential that everyone can easily get the treatment they need. We welcome Dame Carol Black’s recommendation for increased funding that is protected and prioritised for treatment and recovery services to ensure that everyone can get the support they need to move forward with their lives.”

There are 32 recommendations made in the report, including that the government invests more in treatment and recovery support, and appoints a single, responsible minister on drug policy to hold the government to account. Its recommendations include:

  • Reforming central leadership to set clear targets for the government through a new government unit headed up by a minister.
  • Increasing funding for drug treatment in the community by over £550 million over 5 years.
  • Requiring local authorities to use drug treatment funding for this purpose.
  • Introducing a national Commissioning Quality Standard to ensure comprehensive treatment services are available, working with health, housing and employment support, and criminal justice partners when commissioning services.
  • Taking urgent action to restore the morale of the workforce, including through employing more staff to work in this area so people can receive a higher quality service.
  • Commissioning a new strategy to increase the number of professionally qualified drug treatment staff including psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists, nurses and social workers.
  • Developing and implementing an action plan to improve mental health treatment of people with drug dependence.
  • Taking action to divert drug users from the criminal justice system into treatment, and maximise the use of community sentence treatment requirements.
  • Ensuring everyone leaving prison has ID and a bank account, so that prisoners with drug dependence can access and receive drug treatment in the community as soon as possible after release.

The report highlights two welcome developments in the efforts to tackle drug-related issues, with the £80 million additional funding for drug treatment in 2021/22 as part of a broader package on crime, and the additional £126 million over 3 years invested into drug and alcohol treatment for people who sleep rough.

Systematically addressing the causes of preventable deaths and ill health is a priority for this government, and this year the government announced that the new Office for Health Promotion which will spearhead these efforts to level up society, while making the largest increase to drug treatment funding for 15 years with £80 million of new investment. Throughout the last year providers have continued to support and treat people misusing drugs and alcohol and we are supporting local authorities, who know their communities best, with over £3.3 billion in 2021 to 2022 to spend on public health services, including drug and alcohol treatment.

A further £28 million is being invested into piloting Project ADDER – a new intensive approach to tackling drug misuse, which combines targeted and tougher policing with enhanced treatment and recovery services. Project ADDER (which stands for Addiction, Diversion, Disruption, Enforcement and Recovery) will bring together partners including the police, local councils and health services and run for 3 financial years in 5 areas with some of the highest rates of drug misuse: Blackpool, Hastings, Middlesbrough, Norwich and Swansea Bay.

Helping The Homeless Cope With The Heat

There’s lots of information about how members of the public can take positive action when they see someone sleeping rough in cold weather. But periods of hot weather can also be harmful for people sleeping rough. Director of StreetLink Fiona Colley discusses what people can do if they are concerned about someone sleeping rough during the summer months.

In periods of severe cold weather increased attention rightly turns to the wellbeing of people sleeping rough. There are countless stories in the media, online campaigns and all sorts of information on how to help people sleeping on the streets during these difficult times. But there isn’t the same type of awareness of the impact of hot weather.

For people sleeping on the streets, it can be a challenge to find drinking water, cool showers and cool spaces to spend time in. Additionally, without safe storage, people are often wearing extra layers or carrying heavy bags all day. These factors combine to put people at risk of sunburn, dehydration and, in some cases, heat stroke. Many people who sleep rough also have underlying health conditions which can be exacerbated by hot weather, while people’s mental health can also often worsen in the heat and using drugs or alcohol in hot conditions can put people at even greater risk.

The impact of the coronavirus restrictions may also pose new problems. People are likely to be spending more time indoors in small, hot rooms. When outside, access to drinking water and air-conditioned public buildings has been restricted, while day centres can’t welcome as many people indoors during the heat of the day. Social distancing and hygiene measures might also be compromised if people share bottles of water or gather together to stay in the shade.

It’s clear from StreetLink’s own data that members of the public are concerned about the wellbeing of people sleeping rough during periods of high temperature. Alerts increased by around a quarter during the recent periods of hot weather. That’s why it’s so important members of the public know how to help if they are concerned about someone sleeping rough in the heat. While the English summer is notoriously unpredictable there are likely to be more mini-heatwaves like we witnessed in June over the next few months.

If you see someone sleeping rough during this time here are some simple things you can do:

  • Stop and say hello and ask how the person is doing.
  • Check if the person is happy to accept items such as water and sun cream to help keep them hydrated and protected from the sun. Umbrellas can also help people stay in the shade during particularly hot periods.
  • Ask a nearby café if they will let you ‘pay it forward’, so the person in question can pick up cold drinks and food when needed.
  • Make an alert via StreetLink. The alert will be passed to a local outreach service who will visit the person in question, aiming to connect them with local support services.

Merseyside Households Facing Eviction

Thousands of Merseyside families were made homeless or threatened with eviction since the start of the pandemic, reports the Liverpool Echo.

The latest available figures show that between April and December last year a total of 2,201 households asked their council for help after being made homeless, or as they were on the brink of losing their homes. Another 1,162 families were owed support after being threatened with the prospect of becoming homeless.  Local authorities have a ‘prevention duty’, which requires them to work with people who are threatened with homelessness within 56 days, to help to prevent them from losing their homes. A ‘relief duty’ is owed to people to help them resolve a homelessness crisis if prevention doesn’t work, or if they seek help when they are already homeless. It requires councils to take reasonable steps to secure accommodation for any eligible person who is homeless.

These figures, published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, show that a total of 3,363 families and individuals have either lost their homes or been threatened with homelessness during the Covid-19 pandemic in Merseyside (between April and December, 2020). That is 22% less than the 1,976 households who lost their last settled home, or were threatened with homelessness during the same period in 2019. However, the Government effectively introduced an “evictions ban” last summer, after introducing emergency legislation that prevented landlords from evicting tenants, except in extreme circumstances, or if they had given them six months notice.

In Merseyside, 904 requests for help with either relief or prevention duty came from families with dependent children. That means more than one in four households facing homelessness in our area were either couples with children, single parent families, or family groups of three or more adults and children. As of December 31 last year, 540 households were living in temporary accommodation in Merseyside – including 165 families with children, and a total of 363 youngsters.

The most common triggers of homelessness were households no longer being able to stay with families and friends (33%), the loss of a private tenancy (10%) and people fleeing domestic abuse (11%). But the figures also show 18 households were evicted illegally, which is normally when correct procedures have not been followed. In Merseyside, Knowsley had the highest rate of families facing homelessness. For every 1,000 households in the area, 11.4 were assessed as either homeless or at risk of homelessness. That was followed by St Helens (6.8 per 1,000 households and then Wirral (5.5).

Liverpool City council confirmed to the ECHO its position to date: Since last March, 750 households have been permanently rehoused – with full furniture packages and support. This equates to 1,200 individuals, including children. The council also confirmed that it achieved this in co-operation with several housing associations in the city, as well as support providers, to ensure everyone gets the right support. In terms of the current situation, there are another 60 households in the process of being rehoused, the council confirmed.

Across the whole of England, there were 95,370 homeless households living in temporary accommodation at the end of last year – 7,060 more (8%) than in December 2019. One in six of these households (17%) were placed into emergency B&Bs and hostels. A total of 197,310 households approached their local councils and were found to be either homeless or at risk of homelessness during the pandemic. That is 7% fewer than the 211,760 who were owed a prevention or relief duty between April and December in 2019. The Government said it has taken “unprecedented action to support the most vulnerable people in our society during the pandemic”. That includes providing £310 million to help prevent people from becoming homeless, as part of a £750 million investment to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping in 2021/22.

However, Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: “To say the last year has been difficult for homeless families is a gross understatement, it’s been atrocious. Months of lockdown and school closures spent in cramped, shoddy temporary accommodation with no space to learn or work, and often without access to basics like the internet or a washing machine. The economic impact of the pandemic has exposed the true cost of decades of failure to build the social homes we need. More than 60,000 households were tipped into homelessness last winter – even with the evictions ban. In just over a month the ban on evictions is going to lift, and even more struggling families could be faced with the same fate.”

Ms Neate added: “Despite the clear danger that homelessness will rise, the Government remains focused on expensive home ownership schemes, rather than anything resembling truly affordable housing. If the Government wants this country to recover quickly from the pandemic, investing in a new generation of secure social homes is an absolute must.”

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said: “These figures show our actions have protected renters from eviction, supported rough sleepers and other vulnerable people, and helped keep them safe during the pandemic. Renters continue to be protected, including through six-month notice periods and a ban on the enforcement of evictions, except in the most serious circumstances. But there is more still to do, and we will continue to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping with over £750 million funding this year alone.”

‘Desperate Need’ For More Social Housing

A rising number of homeless people are being placed into bed and breakfast accommodation, the Local Government Association said.

Councils in England are spending five times more on housing homeless people in B&Bs than they were a decade ago, analysis of official figures shows, reports the Evening Standard. A rising number of homeless people are being placed into bed and breakfast accommodation due to a shortage of suitable housing, the Local Government Association (LGA) said. Councils spent £142 million housing families and homeless individuals in B&Bs in 2019-20, according to data from the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government (MHCLG). This is up from £26.7 million in 2010/11.

Provisional Government figures also show that there were 10,510 households in B&Bs in the last three months of 2020 – more than four times the number a decade ago (2,310). The LGA said the figures underline the “desperate need” for more social housing. It is calling for councils to be given further powers and resources to build 100,000 social homes for rent each year.

Councillor David Renard, LGA housing spokesman, said: “Sadly, these figures reflect the scale of the housing challenges that our country faces. Councils will only use bed and breakfasts as a last resort, but the severe lack of suitable housing means they now have no choice. This is hugely disruptive to families with children, and the rising demand for support has come with soaring costs for councils. Throughout the pandemic government has trusted councils to get on with the job of protecting the nation, supporting people and putting infrastructures in place to help with recovery.”

Cllr Renard added: “We want to continue this momentum and work with government to tackle the shortage of housing and build the homes the country desperately needs. With the right funding and freedoms, councils can help government achieve its ambitions for our national recovery from the pandemic. Giving councils the powers to build council housing on the scale required, would go a significant way towards reducing homelessness and the need to place households in bed and breakfasts.”

Next week, hundreds of council leaders and officials will come together virtually for the LGA’s annual conference. The LGA is also calling for the Government to bring forward its pledge to end so-called “no fault” evictions, and maintain the temporary £20-a-week Universal Credit increase, due to end in September. And it wants to see a review of the benefits cap in the context of the coronavirus pandemic.

An MHCLG spokesperson said: “As you would expect, the decisive action we have taken to protect vulnerable people and save lives during the pandemic has clearly contributed to these figures. Our Homelessness Reduction Act has already helped nearly 350,000 households into more permanent accommodation and we’re investing £750 million over the next year alone to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping and lessen the need for temporary accommodation. We’re investing more than £12 billion in affordable housing over five years, the largest investment in a decade, with half for affordable and social rent.”