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.