Government has blown a hole in homelessness protection
published on 13 Oct 2023
As new figures show the number of homeless households in England has increased yet again, The Salvation Army warns that conflicting Government policies are fuelling this rise and is calling for the freeze on housing benefit to be reversed.
According to Government figures, between April 2022 and March 2023, 298,430 households in England became homeless or were at risk – including 104,460 families with children. This is a 6.8 per cent increase on the previous year.
The church and charity continues to lobby for the freeze on housing benefit to be urgently lifted. While rents are rising, the housing benefit cap, has been in place for nearly 4 years, putting vulnerable families at risk of homelessness.
Nathan Slinn, Assistant Territorial Director for The Salvation Army’s Homelessness Service said: "I'm dismayed but not surprised by the latest alarming rise in homelessness. The freeze on the local housing allowance has not only blown a hole through housing benefit, putting thousands of vulnerable people in danger of losing their homes, but is wrecking Government efforts to tackle this problem.
"Local Housing Allowance is supposed to automatically increase annually to protect its value against a rise in inflation so the poorest households can at least afford the cheapest third of private rental properties. The result of the Government’s decision to intervene in this has been laid bare by its own figures today.
“To stem the rising tide of homelessness, which not only impacts individuals but also the provision of public services, it's vital to prevent people from reaching crisis point. Unless housing benefits are urgently raised to cover the cost of rent alongside adequate resources for local authorities and other providers of support services, the number of people who become homeless will keep rising. But if the Government acts now, it has the power to put things right.”
The Salvation Army is also calling on the Government to help tackle homelessness by:
- increasing funding for homelessness and rough sleeping services in line with inflation;
- ensuring sustained investment and increase in housing stock and especially social housing, to meet the needs of the growing numbers of people who are homeless;
- ensuring mental health and addiction support is part of local authority homelessness strategies.