Prediction of 76% Rise in UK Homelessness Unsurprising Amid Welfare Crisis

A group of people walks past homeless people on Broadway Market in east London on July 23, 2017
© AFP 2017/ Tolga Akmen

Experts commented the research that showed that about 160,000 households facing homelessness across the United Kingdom and 76 percent increase in rough sleeping forecast for the next ten years.

LONDON (Sputnik) — About 160,000 households facing homelessness across the United Kingdom and 76 percent increase in rough sleeping forecast for the next ten years, reported in the recent survey, are not new or surprising trends, amid the existing issues in the welfare system, experts told Sputnik.


The research, published by Crisis, the UK national charity for single homeless people, earlier in August, said that a little less than a quarter of a million people were affected.

“These statistics, although disturbing, come as little surprise to us as rough sleeping has been steadily increasing for over seven years now,” Luke Raikes, a researcher with the Institute for Public Policy Research think tank, told Sputnik.

The research found that most of the impacted households were single adults of working age, but families with children were also not exempt.

John Montague, the managing director of the Big Issue Invest group, which provides social enterprises and charities with funding options, told Sputnik that the situation could not be “just hidden or dismissed anymore.”


Both Raikes and Montague pointed out that the welfare system was at the root of the problem.

“The stronger the social welfare net is the less likely you are to see an increase in homelessness during times of economic crisis. The problem is there have been various welfare reforms put in place that have eroded that net, which, coupled with a real shortage of affordable housing, is having a definite long-term and negative effect,” Raikes said.

The Crisis study suggested that poverty was the most important factor behind the rise in homelessness. Among other factors were the availability and affordability of accessible housing.Montague also pointed to “a completely broken housing system” as the root cause of the problem.

“More and more people are just falling into the private rental sector, with housing increasingly being seen as a financial asset, not a means toward social provision,” Montague said.

In response to the Crisis survey, the Local Government Association (LCA) said that while local councils want to end homelessness, they need help to achieve this goal, particularly in terms of implementing a number of welfare reforms. According to the LCA, only “a renaissance in council house building” would help address the problem.

“For that to happen, government needs to allow councils to borrow to invest in genuinely affordable housing, and to keep all of their receipts from Right to Buy sales, so that money can be reinvested into delivering genuinely affordable homes,” the LCA said.

The Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH), a non-profit working to support the housing sector and encourage it to improve, warned last year that a total of 370,000 council and housing association homes in England could be lost to the private sector by 2020.

Matt Dicks, the head of the organization’s Wales branch, responded to Crisis’ findings by saying that the CIH Cymru recognized the local government’s efforts, but saw that there was still need for improvement. As an example, the director of CIH Cymru cited the European experience in eradicating homelessness, which involved collaboration of the housing sector, health, education and welfare services.INTERNATIONAL ATTENTION

The situation has not failed to attract international scrutiny. In 2013, UN Special Rapporteur Raquel Rolnik urged the UK government to abolish the so-called bedroom tax.

The UK government amended welfare laws in 2013 so that people living in social housing would have their housing benefits cut by 14 percent if they had a spare bedroom, or by 25 percent if they had two or more. The amendment stipulated that two children under 16 of the same gender or two children under 10 of different genders would not be entitled to separate bedrooms.

The 2013 UN report suggested that the United Kingdom was facing deep-rooted problems with both affordability and availability of housing. Then-Housing Minister Kris Hopkins dismissed the report as partisan.


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