“The number of homeless families forced to move away from their communities is at its highest for 20 years, as councils struggle to find accommodation for the growing numbers of people in need.
According to official government figures, there were 23,640 families in temporary accommodation outside their local area in the second quarter of this year, the highest level in 20 years and more than double that recorded over the same period just five years ago.
The new data has emerged amid rising anger over homelessness, with recent research showing that deaths among homeless people in England and Wales have increased by 24% in five years. Deaths have risen every year since 2013, from 475 in 2014 to 597 last year, according to the Office for National Statistics.
Several factors are being blamed for the rise in homeless families being relocated. A freeze on benefits and a cap on payments have led to a rise in demand for temporary accommodation. Meanwhile, the stock of council-owned housing has been run down and rents are rising, making affordable private rented accommodation harder to find.
Melanie Onn, the shadow housing minister who uncovered the figures, said they revealed the “human cost of the housing crisis”.
“Eight years of Tory failure on housing means that more and more families are being forced to move away from their communities, schools and jobs,” she said. Labour blamed cuts to housing benefit and an 80% fall in the number of homes for social rent being built.
Greg Beales, director of campaigns at Shelter, said his charity had witnessed the damage caused “when homeless families are forced to uproot their lives and move miles away to temporary accommodation in another area, abandoning jobs, schools and support networks. To put an end to the devastating cycle of homelessness, the government needs to commit to a bold new vision for social housing.
“Only then will families have a fighting chance of a safe and secure home in their local area.”
Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, said the number of families being asked to relocate had become unacceptable: “As local councils struggle to find housing for people, the only option for many is to rent privately, but with renting costs now sky high and housing benefit falling short of rents, this is not a viable option for most,” he said.
“As a result many have no option but to leave any semblance of community and support behind, often moving to areas where they have no connections, leaving them trapped in a cycle of desperation.
“The government’s decision to start reinvesting in social housing is welcome, but it doesn’t go far enough. ” …