Recession leads to 25% rise in homelessness as spending to tackle the problem falls


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The Independent Online

The recession has led to 25 per cent rise in the number of families and individuals classed as homeless, new figures reveal today.

Some 50,290 families and individuals needed to be provided with emergency accommodation last year, compared with 40,020 in 2009/10.

But despite the rise in cases of homelessness, Government spending on tackling the problem fell from £213.7 million to £199.8 million over the last two years, according to an analysis by the data experts SSentif.

Regionally, the highest percentage increase in homelessness was in the East of England, with the number of cases rising by 44 per cent over two years.

The South East saw a 38 per cent rise in the number of households without a home, with 5,320 cases in 2011/12 compared with 3,870 in 2009/10.

London had a 34 per cent rise in the number of homeless households, to 12,720 cases in 2011/12.

The only region to see a fall in the number of households declared homeless was the North East, which saw a reduction of more than 10 per cent.

The largest regional increase was in Birmingham, with 3,929 households requiring emergency accommodation - an increase of 558 cases compared with 2009/10.

It was closely followed by Sheffield, which reported 1,383 households as homeless - an increase of 437 people (46 per cent) on 2009/10.

London boroughs Croydon, Lambeth, Waltham Forest, Hounslow and Kensington and Chelsea, as well as Northampton and Leeds, were also among the areas with the highest increases in homeless households.

The area with the largest percentage increase was Broxbourne, in Hertfordshire, which reported 119 households as homeless in 2011/12, compared with just one case in 2009/10.

West Berkshire, Middlesbrough, Hertsmere in Hertfordshire, Guildford, Elmbridge and Spelthorne in Surrey, and Torridge in Devon were also among the areas with the highest percentage increases in households declared homeless.

Judy Aldred, managing director of SSentif, said: "Whilst these figures are perhaps not surprising given the state of the economy, some of the results for specific councils are quite shocking.

"By analysing the data at council level we were able to highlight some areas that are showing much greater increases than the national average.”

But a spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said: “These figures are a narrow and misleading snapshot. The bigger picture is that homelessness is actually lower than for 28 of the last 30 years - and is half the average rate seen under the previous government.

"We have maintained funding for homelessness grants at 2010/11 levels with £400 million over the next four years, and on top of that we announced an additional £70 million investment over the last year.

"Our strong safety net of support is keeping thousands of vulnerable people off the street and we are determined to take every opportunity to build on this.”

Local housing authorities have a legal duty to provide emergency accommodation for "priority need" groups left without a home.

They include households with dependent children, pregnant women, vulnerable people with a mental illness or physical disability, victims of domestic violence and people left without homes due to a disaster such as fire or flooding.

Priority need categories also include applicants aged 16 or 17; 18 to 20-year-olds who were previously in care; people left vulnerable as a result of time spent in care, in custody, or the armed forces, and those who have fled their homes because of violence or the threat of violence.

Last year alone saw 6,130 more households in England left homeless in 2011/12 - a rise of almost 14%, according to figures from SSentif.