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Prime Minister warned as number of homeless hits record levels, figures reveal

Published 28/09/2016

The figures concern households which fall into the
The figures concern households which fall into the "homeless" category

Tory MPs have told Theresa May that tackling homelessness will be a key test of her commitment to social justice after official figures showed it had risen to its highest level for nearly a decade.

A total of 15,170 households were classed as homeless in the three months to June 2016 - a jump of 10% on the same period last year.

Around a third of these are in London, according to new figures from the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).

The last time a higher level was recorded in England was in the period April-June 2008, when 15,680 households were classed as homeless.

Tory MPs and charities have announced their support for new laws designed to prevent homelessness and urged the Prime Minister, who has said she will build a country that works for everyone, to back them.

Bob Blackman, who is bringing his Homelessness Reduction Bill to the Commons for debate on October 28, said the figures were a national disgrace.

His Private Member's Bill will impose a duty on local authorities to help prevent people at risk of losing their homes from becoming homeless and it is likely to need Government support to become law.

The Tory MP told the Press Association: "It is a contribution to helping people that are facing homelessness.

"I think it sits with Theresa May's social agenda so that everyone benefits from the economic situation of the country, which is very positive.

"It is a national disgrace when we have the highest number of people in employment ever, that we have a low rate of unemployment, that we still have people sleeping rough."

A supporter of the Bill, Tory MP David Burrowes, said the Bill would be a litmus test of Mrs May's social justice credentials.

He said : "It is a scandal in 2016 that we have this level of homelessness.

"Every individual life is one that is shattered and diminished without a secure home above their heads.

"The Government is committed to social justice and this is a key test of the Government's social justice credentials."

Homelessness charity Crisis described the figures as "appalling" and backed the Bill, which also has the support of Tory former housing minister Mark Prisk, alongside Labour and other opposition MPs.

Crisis chief executive Jon Sparkes said: "We need a change in the law to prevent more people from losing their home and to make sure all homeless people can get the help they need, while councils need the funding to make this work. Prevention has already been shown to work in Wales, where it has dramatically reduced the need for people to be re-housed."

Households which are homeless or threatened with homelessness may approach their local authority for assistance.

This is granted if they are considered as being unintentionally homeless and in priority need, such as having dependent children.

A total of 29,790 applications for housing assistance were reported by local authorities in England in the three months to June - an increase of 9% on the same period in 2015.

This is the highest number since July-September 2008. Just over half of the applications were accepted.

The most common reason for losing a home was the ending of a tenancy with a private landlord.

This is now causing a greater proportion of households to become homeless than at any point since current records began in 1998 - roughly a third (32%) of all reported cases in the three months to June 2016.

Shelter chief executive, Campbell Robb, said: "Every day at Shelter we hear from families struggling to keep their heads above water when faced with the double blow of welfare cuts and expensive, unstable private renting, with far too many ultimately losing the battle to stay in their home.

"On top of this, stripped-back budgets and a drought of affordable homes are making it increasingly difficult for overburdened councils to find homeless families anywhere suitable to live."

Martin Tett, housing spokesman for the Local Government Association, urged councils to be given "the powers and funding to resume their historic role as a major builder of affordable homes".

A DCLG spokesman said: "This Government is committed to supporting the most vulnerable in our society and ensuring our country works for everyone, not just the privileged few.

"Statutory homelessness remains less than half the 2003-04 peak and we are investing over £500 million to both tackle homelessness and prevent it happening in the first place."

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