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Homeless households increase by 25%

The number of homeless households in England has risen by a quarter in the last three years, new figures show.

Some 50,290 families and individuals were classed as homeless and in need of emergency accommodation in 2011/12, compared with 40,020 in 2009/10 - an increase of more than 25%.

But despite the rise in the number of cases, spending on tackling homelessness fell from £213.7 million to £199.8 million between 2009/10 and 2010/11, data experts SSentif said.

Local housing authorities have a legal duty to provide emergency accommodation for "priority need" groups left without a home. They include households with dependent children, pregnant women, vulnerable people with a mental illness or physical disability, victims of domestic violence and people left without homes due to a disaster such as fire or flooding.

Priority need categories also include applicants aged 16 or 17; 18 to 20-year-olds who were previously in care; people left vulnerable as a result of time spent in care, in custody, or the armed forces, and those who have fled their homes because of violence or the threat of violence.

Last year alone saw 6,130 more households in England left homeless in 2011/12 - a rise of almost 14%, according to figures from SSentif. Regionally, the highest percentage increase was the East of England, with the number of cases rising from 3,660 in 2009/10 to 5,270 in 2011/12 - a 44% increase.

The largest regional increase was in Birmingham, with 3,929 households requiring emergency accommodation - an increase of 558 cases compared with 2009/10. It was closely followed by Sheffield, which reported 1,383 households as homeless - an increase of 437 people (46%) on 2009/10.

A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said: "These figures are a narrow and misleading snapshot. The bigger picture is that homelessness is actually lower than for 28 of the last 30 years - and is half the average rate seen under the previous government."

Shadow communities secretary Hilary Benn said: "This surge in homelessness has been caused by a perfect storm of a double-dip recession made in Downing Street and sharp falls in housebuilding.

"The Government's own figures show that social house completions dropped 97% in 2011/12 compared to the year before, and affordable housing by 68%. To help bring homelessness down and get the economy moving, the Government should use funds raised from a tax on bank bonuses to build thousands of affordable homes."

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