Prescott warns local authorities over tenancies for the homeless

    Local authorities are to come under pressure to give permanent
    tenancies to homeless households living in private sector or
    council housing, the deputy prime minister said this week.

    The warning followed publication of the latest official
    homelessness statistics, which revealed that 100,810 homeless
    households were living in temporary accommodation between July and
    September 2004 – a 123 per cent increase on the same period in
    1997, when Labour came to power.

    Although the rise can partly be explained by the extension of
    the list of priority groups to which councils must provide
    immediate homeless assistance, John Prescott admitted he was
    “alarmed” by the latest figures.

    But he stressed that only 18 per cent of those in temporary
    accommodation were in bed and breakfast hotels, hostels or refuges.
    He said the remaining 82 per cent of homeless households were
    living in “good quality housing”, but their tenancies were not
    secure.

    These include those placed by councils in the private sector or
    in accommodation owned by councils or registered social
    landlords.

    Prescott said he would be talking to local authorities to try to
    find out why people in these situations were kept on temporary
    tenancies for long periods of time, but insisted he would resist
    setting targets on converting temporary tenancies to permanent ones
    at this stage.

    Housing minister Lord Rooker added that something needed to be
    done about people allowing themselves to become homeless in order
    to obtain council housing.

    Homelessness charity Shelter described the latest figures as a
    “scandal” and called on the government to act now.

    Shelter director Adam Sampson said that the breaking of the
    100,000 barrier for homeless households was “an appalling watershed
    for homeless families trapped in temporary accommodation”.

    “The government’s own reports show that if it is serious about
    tackling child poverty and social exclusion it must do more to get
    homeless households out of temporary accommodation,” he said.

    This week, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister announced
    £60m for local authorities and voluntary sector agencies for
    2005-6 to deliver front-line homelessness services.

    A further £90m was announced to improve hostel
    accommodation and the services they provide, including “move on”
    services that would also prevent bed-blocking in hostels.

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