Ahead of the Budget on Wednesday Labour has released new figures showing that on current trends the number of homeless families is set to reach almost 400,000 by 2020.
Headline ‘statutory homelessness’ statistics only capture those people who fall into a small number of so-called ‘priority need’ groups containing the most vulnerable applicants like pregnant women and young people leaving care. Along with charities and academics, Labour has argued that a much better measure also includes ‘prevention and relief’ cases where councils step in to stop families becoming homeless.
This more comprehensive measure reveals that homelessness rose to 275,000 families last year, up 75,000 from 2010, and is set to hit 369,000 by 2020 on current trends.
This is in addition to rough sleeping figures which records people sleeping on the streets and has doubled in the last five years.
This rise can be traced directly to decisions taken by George Osborne in previous Budgets which have led to big cuts in housing support over the last five years, including:
· cuts to housing benefit support worth over £5bn since 2010 – 13 separate cuts to housing benefit over the last five years, including the bedroom tax and breaking the link between private rented sector housing benefit and private rents;
· cuts to ‘supporting people’ funding for homelessness services – the National Audit Office have revealed that vital funding for homelessness services fell by 45 per cent between 2010 and 2015;
· soaring private rents – averaging over £1600 extra each year than in 2010; and
· the loss of affordable homes – with over 100,000 fewer council homes than in 2010.
Without a change of direction from George Osborne, cuts in this Parliament are set to hit housing services and support on an even bigger scale:
· the further impact of cuts to housing benefit is set to total almost £11bn between 2015 and 2020, plus a new cap on housing benefit announced in the Autumn Statement which homelessness organisations say will lead to the mass closure of their services;
· further cuts to local authority support meaning homelessness services unable to cope – the IFS calculate further real terms cuts of around 7 per cent to council budgets over the next five years;
· private rent rises are set to continue with Savills predict an inflation-busting 16.5 per cent increase in average rents over the next five years; and
· A further loss of 300,000 social rented homes predicted over the next five years.
Commenting, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Housing and Planning John Healey MP said:
“Rising homeless figures carry the starkest warning for the Chancellor ahead of the Budget.
“This spiralling scale of homelessness shames us all when Britain is one of the richest countries in the world. It is a test of our basic humanity. It should shake the Chancellor from his complacency about the growing homeless crisis and shock him into action.
“The homeless figures hide personal stories of hurt and hopelessness; thousands of people whose ordinary lives have fallen apart from illness, debt, family break-up, addiction or redundancy.
“His failure to control housing costs and crude cuts to housing support over the last five years are making the problem much worse. The Government have no long-term housing plan for the country.
“George Osborne must use the Budget this week to stop the upward spiral of homelessness which is being driven by the government’s own housing policy failures.
“He must now re-think the multi-billion pound cuts to housing and homelessness support which are set to bite during this Parliament, as well as strengthening the law to help prevent homelessness happening in the first place as Labour has done in Wales.”
· The wider measure of homelessness used here – including homelessness ‘prevention and relief’ cases as well as ‘statutory homeless’ acceptances – was developed and is used by leading housing academics in the annual ‘Homelessness Monitor’ commissioned by Crisis and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation :http://www.crisis.org.uk/data/files/publications/Homelessness_Monitor_England_2016_FINAL_(V12).pdf.
· Between 2009/10 and 2014/15 the average annual increase in this wider measure of homelessness was 6%. If the rate of increase in the last five years continued over the next five years this would mean 369,124 homelessness cases by 2019/20.
Source: DCLG statutory homelessness and homelessness prevention and relief statistics: 2009/10 – 2014/15. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/live-tables-on-homelessness
· In addition, the latest rough sleeping figures collected in Autumn 2015 show that the number of people sleeping on England’s streets has doubled since 2010 with 3,659 people recorded sleeping rough on one night: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/rough-sleeping-in-england-autumn-2015.
· Figures on housing benefit cuts for the last Parliament, and planned over the next were supplied by the House of Commons Library.
· The National Audit Office have revealed that cuts to supporting people funding for homelessness services averaged 455.3% between 2010/11 and 2014/15:https://www.nao.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Impact-of-funding-reductions-on-local-authorities.pdf.
· Average private market rents were £1,608 a year more expensive in January 2016 than at the same point in 2010, according the LSL rental index:http://www.lslps.co.uk/documents/buy_to_let_index_feb16.pdf.
· There were 117,000 fewer council homes in England in 2014 than in 2010:https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/423176/LT_104.xls
· IFS figures suggest cuts to local authority budgets of around 7% over the next five years:http://www.ifs.org.uk/publications/8095.
· Savills have predicted UK-wide increase in rents of 16.5% over the next five years:http://www.savills.co.uk/research/uk/residential-research/forecast-pages/mainstream-rental-values.aspx
· The Chartered Institute of Housing have said that as many as 300,000 homes for social rent could be lost over the next five years: http://home.bt.com/news/uk-news/housing-boss-says-england-could-lose-300000-socially-rented-homes-by-2020-11364045175253
· More information on the measure the Welsh Government have taken on homelessness are available here: http://gov.wales/topics/housing-and-regeneration/legislation/housing-act/specific-elements/homelessness/?lang=en.