Private rented sector still most common way to solve homelessness, figures show

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Less use was made of landlord incentive schemes to get people at risk of homelessness into private rented accommodation last year, but it was still the most common solution, official figures released yesterday show.

Statistics issued by the Department for communities and local government (DCLG) show in 2012/13 a total of 202,400 cases of homelessness intervention for households and individuals took place outside the current legal framework.

Under the Homelessness Act 2002, local housing authorities must have a strategy for preventing homelessness in their area. Such action plans must cover non-priority cases as well as incidents where people make themselves homeless intentionally.

The overwhelming majority (90%) of such actions were some 181,500 preventions by helping people find alternative accommodation or aid to stay in their own home.

In addition, 21,000 instances of relief support, where authorities cannot prevent homelessness and have no legal obligation to do so, made up the remaining 10% of help offered.

More than half (53%) of all help given was in the form of helping households find alternative accommodation, a 4% dip in the proportion the previous year. However, the share of help which involved helping households stay in their existing homes increased by the same proportion, from 43% in 2011/12 to 47% in 2012/13.

The most common preventative action to prevent homelessness was the use of landlord incentive schemes to secure private rented accommodation. Around 26,2000 cases, some 13% of the total were dealt with in this way, although this was a decrease of 5% compared to the 18% proportion in 2011/12.

But on posting this today on my WordPress blog, Facebook and Twitter I decided to dig a little deeper and figures show that Nine million people now pay rent to private landlords in the UK after the reckless expansion of the buy-to-let market, with too many stuck in expensive, substandard homes and desperately insecure tenancies. The sheer number of recommendations for sweeping reform in a House of Commons select committee report this week is itself testament to just how deep the problems are in this sector.

Letting agents should face far tougher rules, says the committee. The worst should be banned. Tenants need to be protected from the appalling rise in letting agency fees, with the committee proposing that adverts for properties reveal every add-on fee. Councils should have new powers to weed out rogue landlords who soak up billions from housing benefit but leave their tenants in dirty, damp and overcrowded homes.

The committee also recommends a reform of letting contracts to remove the constant threat of eviction for families forced into renting long term. The report highlighted one tenant, Carl Thomas, whose 10-year-old daughter had already moved seven times.

But two words are conspicuously absent from the long list of recommendations: rent control.
Conservatives reel in horror at the idea of rent control, which they blame for the dilapidation and collapse of the rental market in the 1960s. Landlords, unable to put up the rent, simply let their properties (and tenants) rot. A return to rent control will strangle supply, returning us to the bad old days, they warn. Yet the same people used the same economic theory to oppose minimum wage legislation – and were wrong then, too.

I would just point out and its the bedroom tax which is what I blog about a great deal that wasn’t included and the cuts to housing benefit will certain bring a big increase to the homelessness figure.

More people are sleeping on London’s streets increasing the UK homelessness situation, but they spend less time there

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For a group that tries to stay hidden, much is known about homeless people in London. The Combined Homelessness and Information Network (CHAIN) contains an individual record for every rough sleeper found since the late 1990s. These numbers have been causing problems for London’s mayor, Boris Johnson. Mr Johnson pledged to end rough sleeping when he stood for office in 2008. Yet the number of people seen sleeping on the streets during a year has risen from 3,017 then to 6,437.

Cuts to local-authority services aimed at supporting those with mental health problems and drug or alcohol addiction seem to have driven more to the streets. Since the financial crisis more economic migrants from eastern Europe have been sleeping rough. Poles alone make up 10% of London’s homeless.

Yet a good deal of the increase is a statistical quirk. Better use of outreach workers since 2010 and the promotion of Street Link, a rough-sleeping hotline, means more are found. The same year saw a change in methodology. Previously only those who had actually bedded down for the night were recorded as rough sleepers. Now those preparing to do so, who are talked out of it, are included too. These changes contributed to a headline-grabbing 43% increase in a single year.

While the flow of people on to the streets seems to have increased, the stock of entrenched homeless people—the really worrying group—has swollen much less. The mayor’s No Second Night Out policy, which provides an emergency place to sleep and some help to rough sleepers, has increased the proportion of the newly homeless spending only one night on the street from 62% in 2010 to 75% in 2012. Richard Blakeway, deputy mayor for housing, points out that only 3% are seen sleeping rough in all four quarters of the year.

Most of those visiting No Second Night Out are reconnected to family, friends or services, either in Britain or abroad. Howard Sinclair, chairman of Broadway London, a homeless charity, hears rumours of a rise in homelessness in smaller towns as London becomes more assertive about refusing services to those without a local connection. The small towns to which they return have less capacity to cope. The capital may be driving some of the problem elsewhere.

Huge rise in food bank use in summer holidays as demand increases due to children and free school meals

While doing research for the making of the film I’ve slept rough, raised funds and worked with the homless and worked in the foodbanks of South East London.JL1

Food banks across Britain are being inundated with requests for emergency meals as families struggle to feed their children through the school holidays.

The Trussell Trust, which runs the country’s largest network of food banks, says this is the busiest summer it has ever experienced, with some of its branches seeing double the number of requests for emergency parcels since the start of the school holidays.

Parents whose children ordinarily receive free school lunches are among those struggling the most, as they now have to find an extra meal every day. The trust says the situation is worse than last summer because of rising food prices which despite falling slightly in the latest Government figures are more than 4 per cent higher than last year and the impact of the Coalition’s welfare changes that were launched in April.

A lag in data collection means that complete national statistics are not yet available, but snapshot figures from 18 food banks around the country show that all have seen demand rise during the summer break. In Grantham, Lincolnshire, for example, the food bank gave parcels to 219 people in July, a 61 per cent increase on the previous month. In Redcar, Teesside, the increase from June to July was 71 per cent, while Dundee’s food bank gave out 538 food parcels in July, a 43 per cent increase on June.

The free food is only given out to those whose situation is critical and who are referred to the trust by frontline workers such as doctors, social workers and Citizens Advice Bureaux

Chris Mould, executive chairman of the Trussell Trust, said: “This is the busiest summer we’ve had. If people are on low incomes and they’re struggling to cope with price increases and making ends meet, if you remove one of the supports they have – like when their children don’t get free food – they’re instantly in difficulty. One of the things that is concerning us is the increasing proportion of people coming to us because of operational failures in the welfare system. We see a lot of people who’ve had their benefit sanctioned in ways which, on the face of it, seem inappropriately punitive. We meet people who’ve had their benefits stopped because they were late for an appointment.”

In Tower Hamlets, east London, which has the highest proportion of pupils on free school meals in the country, the change is dramatic. In June it gave 111 people emergency food but by July that figure was 202, while 107 people came last week alone.

Lindsay Judge, senior policy adviser for Child Poverty Action Group, said: “It’s a national scandal that more families are being referred to food banks in the summer holidays – a time when children should be having fun and parents should be enjoying life. It shows that something has gone badly wrong with the safety net in this country as welfare reform has taken away the protection a social security system is supposed to provide.”

The number of parcels handed out at Yate and Chipping Sodbury food bank in Gloucestershire more than doubled in the first week of the summer holidays. In Salisbury, Wiltshire, the number of donations went up by a quarter from 290 in June to 359 in July, while Blackburn has seen a 58 per cent increase in demand in the last fortnight alone. In response it has had to open a special summer holiday distribution centre.

Stephen Timms, the shadow minister for employment, said: “These figures tell you a great deal about this Government. David Cameron is in denial about the scale of the hardship which food banks represent. He has given millionaires a tax cut, while thousands of parents struggling to make ends meet have had no help at all.”

Lynda Battarbee, North-west development officer for the Trussell Trust, said: “The need here has doubled. Anecdotally this does seem to be to do with welfare reform – for some, the bedroom tax and other changes have pushed them over the edge. We’ve had lots of families whose kids don’t want to leave school because they know they’ll go hungry.”

Even before the holidays started, welfare reforms were having a noticeable impact on the need for urgent help with meals. Between 1 April, when many of the benefit changes came in, and 30 June, 152,154 people received three days’ worth of emergency food, which was triple the number who needed it last year. But this surge over the last few weeks shows that for some families, the holidays have been the final straw.

A DWP spokesman said: “The benefits system supports millions of people who are on low incomes or unemployed and there is no evidence that welfare reforms are linked to increased use of food banks.”

But the Trussell Trust points out that the number of people referred due to problems with benefits has soared; eight years ago, the proportion going to their food banks for this reason was 20 per cent; now it is 52 per cent.

Landlord highlights plight of ex-soldiers

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A housing association is highlighting the issues faced by the armed forces trying to get back into civilian life through a series of exhibitions.

Town & Country Foundation, the charitable arm of the Tunbridge Wells-based Town & Country Housing Group, has also launched a website to show the difficulties faced by ex-service men.

Veterans trying to re-enter civilian life often encounter issues such as homelessness, alcohol and drug dependency, attempted suicide and unemployment, the housing association says.

The ‘Two Worlds’ project is being run as the Ministry of Defence works towards a programme to reduce force levels by 20,000 by 2017.

Jackie Sumner, head of community investment at the housing association, said: ‘We know what a big challenge the restructuring of our armed forces will be to housing associations.

‘Thousands of soldiers will be looking for homes and a way back into civvy life. But more than this they will also need help and support in making this difficult transition.’

The first of the exhibitions was held in January this year and has been on tour around the country at military related venues. At the start of next year a sculpture created by service veterans will be exhibited and in September to November next year another exhibition, Our History – families, memories and mementos of war, will be held.

The 9,000- home Town & Country Housing Association also signed up with other local organisations to an ‘armed forces community covenant’ in Tunbridge Wells last month.

The covenant aims to encourage organisations to offer support to the local armed forced community and point it in the direction of help offered by other bodies, such as the Ministry of Defence and charities.

We need a Royal & Prince William shows off Table Tennis skills while visiting homeless Charity last week

Prince William

Prince William made the most out of his private visit to a homeless charity last week.

As patron of the organization, the royal stopped by one of Centrepoint Charity’s central London hostels to meet with staff and learn about the facility and its needs, as well as getting in a quick game of table tennis and a plate of flapjacks.

HRH Prince William

A casually dressed Prince William stopped and chatted with many of the charity’s residents, including the Centrepoint Parliament and Fully Focused, a group of younger adults who were taught the art of filmmaking. The dad-to-be also made a stop at the kitchen (where residents are taught how to cook on a budget and the importance of nutrition) to try some flapjacks and homemade smoothies, and proceeded to hit up the ping-pong table outside.

Prince William CP

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Last year I did my own walk to bring awareness for homelessness for Crisis. This is the view from Crisis on todays stats released from Government.

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A 16 per cent increase in homelessness in London over the last year, means the government must use this month’s Spending Review to build more affordable houses and stop and reverse cuts, particularly to housing benefit, warns Crisis, the national charity for single homeless people.

Figures released by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) show that 14,812 households in the capital were accepted as homeless by their local council in the 2012/2013 financial year – an increase of 16 per cent on last year, substantially higher than the 6 per cent rise across England. It is the third consecutive year that homelessness has risen in London and over the three years homelessness acceptances have increased by 57 per cent.

Also in London in 2012/13:

  • There are 40,230 households in temporary accommodation, 9.5 per cent more than at the same point last year
  • There are 2,290 homeless households living in B&Bs, a 22 per cent increase on the same time last year. 51 per cent of all households placed in B&Bs in England are in London.
  • One of the biggest drivers of the increase in homelessness has been private tenancies coming to an end, as rents rise and cuts to housing benefit come in. Since last year there has been a 75 per cent increase in those made homeless because of the ending of a private tenancy in London
  • The ending of a private tenancy is now the leading cause of homelessness in the capital, accounting for 28 per cent of all those accepted as homeless.
  • In some outer London boroughs the rises in homelessness have been severe:
  • In Barking and Dagenham 664 households were accepted as homeless in 2012/13, up 234 per cent on the year before
  • In Newham 720 households were accepted as homeless in 2012/13, up 190 per cent on the year before
  • In Enfield 551 households were accepted as homeless in 2012/13, up 115 per cent on the year before

The homelessness figures follow statistics last week from the government’s Valuation Office Agency2 showing that London rents for 2012/13 are up 8.6 per cent on the year before, with relatively cheaper properties rising faster. Across the capital the lower quartile of rents rose by 10.4 per cent and in inner London the price of renting the cheapest properties went up by 16.3 per cent.

Leslie Morphy, chief executive of Crisis, said: “This rising tide of homelessness is a direct result of cuts to housing benefit at a time when there is a chronic lack of affordable housing and rents are rising, nowhere more so than London. Ministers can and must do more. Their immediate priorities should be to use the spending review to rein in the destructive welfare cuts they have made and focus instead on building the genuinely affordable homes Britain needs.

“These figures are a tragedy for the tens of thousands of people made homeless during the last year, but they are bad for us all. It makes more sense and is more cost-effective to help people stay in their homes than spend far more money on temporary accommodation or support once people become homeless. With more cuts to housing benefit kicking in we can sadly only expect things to get worse”

Independent research clearly showed that cuts to housing benefit3 would cause homelessness and today’s statistics reflect this. Temporary accommodation costs far more to the taxpayer than keeping a family in their own home. Recent reports from London include the story of a family receiving £700 a week in housing benefit made homeless due to cuts, only to be put in £2,500 a week temporary accommodation.

DCLG’s figures only cover households that have met strict criteria for help. Many single homeless people will not be recorded in these figures, nor people who have not gone to their local council for help. People living on the streets, in squats or on friends’ or families’ floors will likewise not be included in today’s statistics.

Video clip and images from my last 24hrs with Christian raising money for ‘Help the Heroes’ and his walk to end homlessness

Johnny LynchSo had a fantastic time with Christian as he continues his walk around the British coast line for ‘Help the Heroes’ and bringing awareness to the UK homeless problem and some of the most vulnerable people in the UK.

Yesterday I arranged for the local press to meet Christian along with local photographer Andreas Yiasimi as he passed through Cromer and Sheringham my two favourite places in the country and where I call home before introducing him to the pride of Cromer and its tamar class Lifeboat where he commented to me as he checked out the bridge ‘I can’t believe the controls in here it looks like the bridge of the starship enterprise’ We had been joined by Bob Duncan (Gt Yarmouth ‘Nockfest’ organiser)

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It was then on to the Wellington Public House in Cromer one of local bars where he was treated to a pint of Directors a popular cask ale courtesy of the my friend and owner Leona and then on to see Maria owner of Cromer Ice Cream and Pizza House where she fed us all with a freshly backed Pizza and Norfolk Ice Cream before taking him to see my mum.

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We then walked on to Sheringham, Norfolk my home town where we negotiated the rugged and dramatic chalk cliffs and ever changing of coast line of North Norfolk and was treated to a night from Jackie and Ali in the Dunstable Arms, Sheringham of telling jokes, stories and got more of an insight to a man I have grown to know a little more intimately since we made the documentary ‘Onward Christian Soldiers. The Long Walk to end Homelessness’ on him last weekend.

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My part and time in his journey is over until I catch up with him further along the coast but it’s been a true privilege and one of the most proudest moments of my life walking side by side along this favourite part of Britain of mine.

Here is a very rough short clip of my walk yesterday with Christian and will be bringing you more of this and the full documentary soon.

Hope you are well as you march on and strive for you own hopes and dreams in your own life.

Thank you for all your support.

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Johnny Lynch

North Norfolk Coast is ready to greet Christian

Cromer Pier

So if you are local to Norfolk then you will recognise the land mark as Cromer pier taken early in the morning and now awaits Christian as he continues his long walk to end homelessness and raising money for ‘Help the Heroes’

When Christian arrives very shortly, I have organised a small press gathering to report on his journey and another chance for him to share his story. After that he will be given a tour of the lifeboat house at the end of the pier then taking him through the town, into my local pub for a ale, on then for him to try some traditional seaside fish n chips and an a chance to taste and sample a variety of Norfolk Ice Creams.

It will be time for me to then wave this former soldier on his way having grown to know a little about this man, his motivations, what inspires him and drives him through spending time which has been a privilege for me during the honest interviews I was able to have and hear in his own words why he would take on such a task of walking the UK coast line and sleeping rough every night. I will do so with a heavy heart but with fond memories but hey thats my job but sometimes you can’t help but take something from all we meet and this man as inspired me so much.

I look forward to bringing you the complete documentary ‘Onward Christian Soldier. The Long Walk to end Homelessness’ when its finished.

Have a lovely day and don’t forget to smile

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Regards
Johnny Lynch
Producer, Presenter
Broken Films and Hotel Paranoia Films.

Onward Christian Soldier. The Long Walk to end Homelessness.

Johnny Lynch

Not long back from my 48hrs on the road with Christian Nock where we filmed a documentary.

Thanks for all of you that keep coming back for updates and will tell you more about that and lots more coming this week.

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Here as a little treat is a Still from our documentary – ‘Onward Christian Soldier. The Long Walk to end Homelessness’

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Brighton shows its forward thinking again as homeless are to be contained.

A plan to house Brighton’s homeless in reconditioned shipping containers has been given the green light.

Living container

Brighton Housing Trust (BHT) has secured planning permission to install 36 units on the site of a former scrapyard at Richardson’s Yard on London Road.

The unique homes will provide temporary accommodation for the city’s homeless. BHT believes that up to a 100 people sleep rough on Brighton’s streets every night.

The units are to be shipped over from Holland, where they were designed and built. They were originally earmarked for an Amsterdam social housing project that fell through because of funding issues.

Officers from Brighton and Hove’s Planning Committee who recommended approval said that the containers were an “imaginative and appropriate way to meet a very real need for affordable accommodation”.

BHT’s chief executive, Andy Winter, said: “Shipping containers are relatively cheap to provide and maintain. They are built to withstand ocean waves so they will last a long time.

“They’re airtight and the windows are double-glazed so heating bills are much lower than they would be in some traditional buildings.”