The number of homeless households being moved out of London has risen to over 1,200, a jump of almost 50 per cent in the first half of this year.
In some cases families are being sent hundreds of miles away to cities in Scotland, Wales and the north of England. Council chiefs in London are blaming a sharp rise in homelessness, a continuing tightening of public finances and a lack of affordable housing in the capital as the main causes for the crisis. According to figures collected by local authorities, 740 households have been relocated to Kent, 574 to Essex, 30 to the West Midlands and 69 to Surrey.
This is on top of figures for the 15 months to June 2018, when almost 2,500 homeless families were moved out of London – mostly to Kent and Essex Experts are highly critical of the practice which they say turns families’ lives upside down. “Losing your home is a deeply traumatic event and then being offered accommodation miles away from your community, your work, your children’s school and your care responsibilities compounds all that trauma,” said Karen Buck, the MP for Westminster North. “People are struggling against the most appalling odds to hold their own lives together and above all to hold their kids’ lives together.” She said it was almost impossible to get a local housing offer for her constituents.
Almost 70 per cent of all of England’s homeless households are in London. Councils say they are struggling to rehouse people within the capital because social housing is full and the amount people can spend on private rent under housing benefit has been been frozen since 2015 even as rents have risen. Shelter said the figures were “a damning indictment of our housing system” and show how desperately more social housing is needed. “We see people having to quit jobs, drop out of education and move hours away from friends and family,” said Greg Beales, the director of campaigns at Shelter.
Labour’s shadow housing secretary, John Healey, called the figures “shameful”. “This is a crisis made in Downing Street,” he said. “There are now 120,000 children homeless in temporary accommodation each night, but deep Conservative cuts to housing investment mean the number of new social rented homes has fallen to a record low.” The Housing and Homelessness Minister, Heather Wheeler, said: “Councils should try to place homeless households within their own area, and they must take into account healthcare needs, jobs and schooling when finding a suitable property. We are investing more than £1.2bn in tackling homelessness.”
By Patrick Mooney, editor