Charities applaud move to limit councils’ use of B&B accommodation

The government has confirmed plans to impose a legal duty on
councils to find families in bed and breakfast accommodation a
permanent home within six weeks.

The proposal, contained in a consultation paper launched by
minister for social exclusion and equality Barbara Roche this week,
strengthens the government’s pledge to end the use of B&Bs for
families with children (news, page 11, 6 February 2003).

It would see section 210 of the Housing Act 1996 amended, making it
illegal for families to be placed in temporary accommodation for
longer than six weeks except in emergencies.

A set of national minimum standards for B&Bs, which currently
accommodate 5,500 homeless families with children, is also included
in the document. They will cover key areas such as size, occupancy
levels, location of cooking and bathing facilities, and management
of the building.

It also proposes introducing statutory guidance on councils’
responsibilities to ensure, within their homelessness strategies,
co-ordinated social services, health and education support for
people housed in temporary accommodation.

Roche said: “Overcrowded accommodation with poor, unhygienic
facilities and no play and study space causes misery and
ill-health. For children it can be particularly devastating,
affecting development and education and putting them at a
disadvantage at a young age.”

Homelessness charity Shelter has welcomed the proposals. Director
Adam Sampson said: “We are delighted that the government has
announced these long-awaited proposals on standards in temporary
housing, especially the outlawing of B&Bs for families.”

But he added that although the proposals would mean that thousands
of homeless people would be able to look forward to better living
conditions, there was still “a chronic shortage of affordable
housing in certain areas of the country”.

Dr Vivienne Nathanson, head of science and ethics at the British
Medical Association, which recently carried out research on the
health problems faced by children who live in B&Bs, also
welcomed the end of “a practice which is outdated and causes untold
damage” (news, page 8, 8 May). 

– Document from Consultation ends
5 August.

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