Charities sound alarm over rise in homelessness

The government has admitted that a long-term fall in homelessness could be at an end after releasing figures showing that rates had risen in two consecutive quarters for the first time since 2003.

The findings, released today by the Department for Communities and Local Government, have sparked warnings of worse to come from homelessness charities.

Seasonally adjusted figures showed English councils accepted 11,360 homeless households as in priority need in the third quarter fo 2010 (July to September), a 12% rise on the second quarter.

As homelessness acceptances also rose in the second quarter of the year, this is the first time since 2003 that homelessness acceptances have risen in two consecutive quarters.

The DCLG said: “This suggests a turning point has been reached in the long-term downward trend.”

Homelessness charities said they feared these figures would worsen as government cuts, particularly to housing benefit, begin to kick in next year and pointed out that people are already struggling to pay their rent.

“These are worrying signs; for the first time for seven years we are seeing a significant increase in the numbers of people becoming homeless and being accepted for help by their local authority,” said Leslie Morphy, chief executive of Crisis.

“Our real worry is that this is just the start of something much bigger,” she added.

“We know from the cases we see every day that just one single thing, like a bout of illness, rent increase or drop in income, is all that’s needed push people into spiral of debt and arrears that can lead to the loss of their home,” said Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter.

He attacked government plans to relax homelessness legislation by allowing councils to discharge their duty to those in priority need by arranging for them to be placed in private rented accommodation, without their consent. This would stop people from insisting on being moved into more secure social housing.

“Today’s rise in homelessness, combined with government cuts and the threat of job losses on the horizon, mean that now is the very worst time to be reducing the rights of homeless people,” said Robb.

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