MORE must be done to protect homeless families in emergency accommodation from the the coronavirus, the head of Shelter has warned.
The charity urged action after the latest official statistics released by the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG) revealed that households placed in temporary accommodation in England had risen 4.8% in the space of a year.
Meanwhile, the Local Government Association (LGA), which represents councils in England and Wales, highlighted the “severe shortage” of social housing that is pushing up demand for council homelessness services.
“In the last few days, the Government has acted swiftly to help renters and people sleeping rough by putting in place strong emergency measures to help safeguard these groups during the coronavirus crisis. It must now do the same for homeless families in shared and one-room temporary accommodation,” said Polly Neate, Shelter’s chief executive.
“Thousands of families with children are in this situation, living in cramped emergency B&Bs and hostels. It can be more difficult for them to follow NHS isolation guidance when they are sharing kitchens and bathrooms with strangers, living a single room or even sharing a bed. And we don’t know how children will cope being stuck in these conditions when schools close.
“We need to protect families already experiencing the trauma of homelessness from greater risk of coronavirus. That’s why we’re urging the government to follow suit with additional funding and support for councils to help those currently in shared temporary accommodation and prevent anyone else ending up there. This is a key way we can keep more people safe.”
The latest official figures, covering the third quarter of 2019, deal with councils’ statutory homeless duties under the provisions of the Homelessness Reduction Act. They show that between July to September last year:
- 36,640 households were assessed as being threatened with homelessness within 56 days and so owed a prevention duty
- 34,940 households were initially assessed as homeless and therefore owed a relief duty
- 9,650 households were assessed as being unintentionally homeless and in priority need following the relief duty, and owed a main duty
- 20,430 households secured accommodation for six months or more during their prevention duty, and therefore had their homelessness prevented
- In total 36,050 households who were threatened with homelessness or were homeless were able to secure accommodation for six months or more, and 6,160 households owed a main duty accepted a tenancy offer
- On 30th September 2019 the number of households in temporary accommodation was 87,410, up 4.8% from 83,430 on 30th September 2018
- The number of households in B&B was 7,080, up 2.6% from 6,900 on 30th September 2018, but those households with children in B&B for more than six weeks were down 27.9% to 620 households
Councillor David Renard, the Local Government Association’s housing spokesperson said these figures highlighted not only the “extreme pressures” that homelessness services face — but also the rising demand driven by a “severe shortage” of social housing.
“Councils are leading local efforts to support people at risk of homelessness during the coronavirus outbreak, and will be working closely with tenants who are experiencing financial difficulty as a result, to help them remain in their homes,” he added.
“The recently announced measures to protect tenants from eviction will help to reduce homelessness.
“The Government also needs to urgently address the growing shortfall between housing benefit and the cost of private sector rents and councils also need the flexibility to ensure the hardship funding announced in the Budget is best-used to support economically vulnerable people and households to prevent homelessness.”