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UK govt reforms fuelling homelessness

4 February 2015 15:13

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A study says England is suffering a rapidly worsening homelessness crisis amid government welfare reforms such as the controversial bedroom tax, sanctions and cuts to housing benefits.

The report, conducted by the charities Crisis and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and published on Wednesday, said the government’s welfare policies are seen as the biggest single trigger for homelessness at the moment.

The study said the government imposed housing benefit caps and lack of social housing have resulted in homeless families being increasingly placed in accommodation outside their local area. In 2013-14, out-of-area placements increased by 26 percent, accounting for one in five of all incidents.

The study also said the government’s welfare reforms contributed to an 18-percent increase in repossession actions by social landlords. In addition, the housing benefit caps played a major part in a third of all household evictions by private landlords.

Furthermore, the report said the UK’s official data underplay the scale and complexity of the problem, as the figures do not include the hundreds of thousands of Britons in housing crisis who are receiving informal government help.

Official data show 52,000 households were formally registered as homeless in 2013-14 while another 227,800 families received some help as they were facing the risk of losing their home.

Jon Sparkes, the chief executive of Crisis, said the study revealed the true scale of England’s homelessness.

“Council officials are clear that benefit cuts and sanctions are taking a dreadful toll on people’s lives, with rising numbers facing the loss of their home at a time when councils are being forced to cut services,” said Sparkes, adding, “This is a desperate state of affairs.”

Kris Hopkins, the housing minister, rejected the charities’ claims, calling them misleading, as the figures included those who have received help and not just those accepted as homeless.

The current UK coalition government launched austerity measures when it came to power in 2010 in a bid to tackle the country’s mounting debt and sluggish growth, but the policies have sparked opposition and public protests in recent years. The cuts have severely hit the poorest households in the country, forcing many of them to choose between paying for food or energy.

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