The true scale of homelessness in the North East is much higher than official figures show, a report by a leading think tank argues today.
Official figures identify only a fraction of homeless households, according to IPPR North.
But others are forced to live in temporary accommodation including privately-run hostels which might lack heating, proper sanitation or security – and where tenants risk being abused or exploited by landlords, or even forced to carry out unpaid work to avoid being evicted.
The report is based partly on an earlier study by the North East Regional Homelessness Group which involves 12 local authorities in the region as well as community groups.
Official figures show that 44 households were officially accepted as homeless by Newcastle City Council over three months. This means the council accepted it was under a legal duty to provide them with accommodation.
In County Durham the figure was 62 households, in Northumberland it was 48, in Gateshead it was 39, in Sunderland it was 25, in North Tyneside it was 42 and in South Tyneside it was also 42.
But many people who have no permanent home are excluded from the figures because they are not classed as being in “priority need”. Typically, this will mean that they are 18 or older and do not have children.
They may be pushed into bed and breakfast accommodation or shared accommodation living with strangers.
The true scale of the problem is unknown. A report produced by the North East Homelessness Think Tank highlights the fact that local authorities are not expected to maintain figures for people in this situation, or track what happens to them.
But IPPR North argues that official figures “only identify a fraction” of households in temporary accommodation.
The report warns:
“Research undertaken in the North East region of England has detailed unacceptable standards in various aspects of premises management, including poor security and poor buildings maintenance, shower and toilet facilities being out of order for long periods of time, poor heating, and repeated incidents of drug-related violence on the premises.
“The research also identified widespread abusive management practice, including tenants having their cash cards and benefits books confiscated by proprietors, being forced to share rooms with strangers, being locked out of the premises for long periods, and being charged for services which were not provided.”
Research by the North East Regional Homelessness Group also found examples of people being required to carry out unpaid work for landlords under threat of eviction, sexual abuse and exploitation of vulnerable residents and people being locked out of their accommodation from early morning until late evening.
Housing consultant Sheila Spencer, one of the North East Homelessness Think Tank’s researchers, said:
“Generally speaking the very worst accommodation is occupied by people who have no choice but to be there.
“And some of it is absolutely appalling. You would be horrified by what goes on in some places.”
But the people affected often receive very little help, she said.
“There is a complete lack of support to help people get out of that situation, or to show them how to get drug or alcohol services.”
The North East Homelessness Think Tank was trying to persuade the Government and local authorities to collect more data about single homeless people, she said.
“We need to know how many are living in the worst situations.”
Bill Davies, IPPR North Research Fellow, said:
“There is very little good statistical data for the hidden homeless. Limited research has been conducted on them and their precarious lives go largely unrecorded by research organisations or public authorities.
“As a hidden population, their numbers are difficult to estimate but the scale of the problem is likely to be substantial.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 11 Dec 2014
The number of homeless families housed in temporary accommodation across England has risen to a five-year-high, the latest figures show.
Figures from the Department for Communities and Local Government show that 59,710 homeless households were living in temporary accommodation in England, including B&B’s, at the end of June 2014 – 6% higher than June 2013 and the highest level for five years.
Charities raised concerns earlier this year about an apparent rise in the number of ‘revenge evictions‘ (This is Money).
30% of all homeless applications between 1 April and 30 June 2014 came from private sector tenants. The figure represents a 27% increase on the same quarter in 2013 and is the most common reason given by households for becoming homeless.
Gill Payne, director of policy and external affairs at the National Housing Federation, said:
“This shocking rise in the number of families stuck in emergency housing is down to our desperate shortage of affordable homes.
“It’s completely unacceptable that we have thousands of people living in so-called temporary housing, including B&Bs, that are expensive, often in poor condition and offer no stability from which to rebuild their lives.”
Figures also show that the number of homeless families with children housed in bed and breakfasts (B&B’s) has risen by 2% to 2,130 by the end of June 2013. The number of households without children living in B&B’s increased by 6% to 4,600.
Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, said:
“Behind every one of these shocking statistics stands a person or a family who’s gone through the tragedy of losing their home. And what’s more worrying is that we know these figures are only the tip of the iceberg.”
Jacqui McCluskey, director of policy and communications for Homeless Link, said:
“The fact that so many people are being placed in temporary accommodation should send another clear signal that there is a desperate shortage of homes that are genuinely affordable to those in greatest need. The alternative of housing people in accommodation like B&Bs is not only unsafe, but is also expensive to taxpayers.”
13,140 households were accepted as being homeless in the second quarter of this year (1 April – 30 June 2014), 2% lower than the same time in 2013.
Source – Welfare News Service, 25 Sept 2014
This article was written by James Meikle, for theguardian.com on Friday 21st February 2014
The government’s welfare shakeup has survived two legal challenges at the court of appeal after five disabled tenants failed in their attempt to get the bedroom tax declared unlawful and judges ruled against claims the £500-a-week cap on benefits violated the human rights of vulnerable families.
The decisions mean that central planks of Iain Duncan Smith’s benefits changes remain intact, although there may yet be further challenges at the supreme court.
The bedroom challenge questioned the legality of new “size criteria” regulations that have led to reductions in housing benefit payments to tenants in social housing assessed to be underoccupying their home. It was backed by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
Two lone parents and a child from each family challenged the benefit cap after being forced into temporary accommodation in London.
Campaigners say the welfare cuts are having a particularly harsh impact on women fleeing domestic violence, and on their children, threatening to trap them in abusive relationships.
Those challenging the bedroom tax vowed to continue their battle following the ruling. Ugo Hayter from law firm Leigh Day, representing two people with disabilities who argue that their second bedroom is essential, said lawyers were disappointed and baffled by the ruling.
“The court recognised that our clients and thousands of disabled people across the UK had a need for accommodation not provided for by the new housing benefit rules. However, the court decided that disabled tenants should not have their housing needs met on an equivalent basis to their able-bodied counterparts just because they are disabled.
“Instead disabled tenants are being forced to rely on short-term and discretionary payments. We are currently considering whether an appeal to the supreme court is possible. Our thoughts go out to the thousands of disabled tenants who continue to be faced with uncertainty, poverty and the risk of eviction.”
Anne McMurdie, of Public Law Solicitors, which is acting for three of the appellants, said: “The government has sought to make savings by targeting the most vulnerable in our society. On the government’s own figures at least 440,000 disabled households will lose out under the new regulations.
“There is compelling and growing evidence of the terrible adverse impact on disabled tenants, having to make the dreadful choice between paying the rent and buying food or heating their homes. Disabled tenants are not asking for extra funds, they are asking for housing benefit to be paid at a level which meets their needs – for the same right as others.”
Richard Kramer, deputy chief executive of Sense, the national deafblind charity, said the bedroom tax policy had been devastating for many disabled people. “Many have been found to have a so-called extra bedroom despite requiring it because of their disability, for example needing extra space to store disability-related equipment and for short-term carers.
“Many disabled people, including the deafblind people that Sense supports, have been pushed to breaking point. They are struggling with the transition from DLA [disability living allowance] to Pip [personal independence payment] and many are facing huge cuts to their social care, leaving them without the support they desperately need to live full and active lives,” said Kramer.
“Alongside other benefits being cut, housing benefit has been the final blow for many disabled people and can lead to serious financial hardship.”
A statement from the Department for Work and Pensions said:”Reform of housing benefit in the social sector is essential to ensure the long-term sustainability of the benefit. But we have ensured extra discretionary housing support is available for vulnerable people.”
On the issue of the cap, the statement said: “We are pleased that the courts have ruled again that the benefit cap complies with the European convention on human rights. The benefit cap sets a fair limit to what people can expect to get from the welfare system – so that claimants cannot receive more than £500 a week, the average household earnings.”
In the judgments, Lord Dyson said Duncan Smith was aware of the “serious impact” of the new criteria for housing benefit, which was why so much effort had been devoted to seeking a solution. He recognised the benefit cap would “cause hardship to some (possibly many) people who are on benefit” but the government recognised it might need modification.
> I suspect the only modification Duncan Smith has in mind is extending hardship from “some” people to the greatest number possible.
The cap in its present form reflected the political judgment of the government and had been endorsed by parliament after considerable debate. It was not up to the court to say whether it agreed with the judgment or not, he said.
Rebekah Carrier, of Hopkin Murray Beskine solicitors, representing two women who had fled violent marriages along with their children and were challenging the benefit cap, said the judges had not decided important issues of principle affecting the large numbers of women and children made homeless by domestic violence every year.
“The government promised to address this in April 2013, 10 months ago, but has failed to do so. The court recognised the problem and expressed concern about the government’s delay in addressing it, but they have abandoned many domestic violence victims to their fate until the government chooses to act,” said Carrier.
“That is not good enough for my clients, or for the many women who will face a stark choice about whether to stay with a violent partner, or flee and risk losing their home or being destitute.”
Source – Welfare News Service, 21 Feb 2014