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Politics Amp Policy
Labour attacks families’ housing shortage
From the Financial Times of Wed, 24 Dec 2014 00:04:54 GMT

Labour has accused the government of a failure to tackle the housing shortage with the claim that more than 87,000 children will spend Christmas in emergency accommodation as the cost of crisis accommodation soars.

The party says its analysis of government and council records shows the bill for temporary shelter is set to reach nearly £2.8bn over the current parliament.

Overall, 60,940 families, including 87,420 children, are expected to spend the festive period in emergency accommodation this year, according to the research. That is a rise of 20 per cent since the start of this parliament in 2010.

“It is a tragedy that tens of thousands of families will be spending their Christmas in emergency accommodation, but it is also costing the taxpayer more,” said Emma Reynolds, shadow housing minister, “with local authorities set to spend billions on emergency accommodation over this parliament because of the government’s failure.”

Kris Hopkins, minister with responsibility for homelessness, responded by saying the government had increased spending to prevent homelessness, with more than £500m available to help the most vulnerable.

“Councils have a responsibility to move homeless households into settled accommodation as quickly as possible and statistics released recently show a significant fall in the number of families with children in bed and breakfast accommodation for longer than six weeks,” he said.

However, Labour’s figures — on a different timescale — show that bed and breakfast use by local authorities is on the rise. The party says there has been a 260 per cent increase since 2010 in the number of families with children illegally housed in such accommodation for more than six weeks, from 140 to 500 such cases.

The claims follow research published this week by the Institute for Public Policy Research think-tank, showing the problems faced by people in temporary accommodation. Interviews with 35 individuals found that of these, 19 had no lock on their door, 15 had been a victim of crime while in such accommodation, and 30 felt their health had been affected by damp and poorly maintained conditions.

In addition, the charity Crisis has given warning of a “tragic waste of young lives”, as new research shows that half of all homeless people first become homeless under the age of 21.

The research, conducted for Crisis by Cardiff University, profiled single homeless people across England, Wales and Scotland. It suggests that people who become homeless at a young age often face a vicious cycle that leaves them vulnerable to violence, substance abuse and problems with mental and physical health.

“Homelessness is a horrifying experience for anyone, but it is especially damaging for young people, who often become homeless again and again because they can’t get the help they need,” said Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis. “This is a tragic waste of young lives. We need to make sure people can get help at an early stage.”

The European Observatory on Homelessness this month reported a trend of rising levels of homelessness — particularly among young people — across the continent. It said that in countries where there was reliable data there had been a rise of 16 per cent in Denmark, 50 per cent in France, 21 per cent in Germany, 17 per cent in the Netherlands and 29 per cent in Sweden.



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