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22 November 2016

Homeless Britons Brace for Cold Winter

Img source: Metro

According to a recent BBC report, spending on temporary accommodation for England’s homeless population has risen by 60% over the past five years (and by 43% across Britain), following an estimated 100% rise in the number of people sleeping rough in England between 2010 and 2015. Overall, since 2011, councils across Britain have spent £3.5 billion on temporary housing for homeless families. The news comes as many Britons brace themselves for what could be a very cold winter.

People sleeping rough are at the greatest risk. According to government data, between 2014 and 2015, the number of people sleeping rough in England rose by 30% from 2,744 to 3,569; double the 2010 figure of 1,768. However, homelessness charity Crisis claimed that ‘the actual figures are likely to be much higher.’ According to GLA data, 8,096 people ‘were seen sleeping rough’ in London alone between 2015 and 2016.

Another charity, Shelter, is currently running a donation campaign with the tagline: ‘This Christmas, 120,000 children in Britain will be homeless.’ The figure relates to ‘statutory homelessness’ rather than sleeping rough; the former term referring to those who approach their local council seeking forms of help like temporary accommodation. Homelessness Monitor research finds there are presently 275,000 statutory homeless Britons. Without such assistance, for those sleeping rough, death from the cold can be a constant worry.

The UK government claims the extra spending on temporary accommodation ‘ensures people have a roof over their head’ during winter. But critics assert the extra spending would be unnecessary if the government were to do more to ensure homelessness was prevented in the first place.

Moreover, local councils are said to be increasingly unable to keep up with the rising demand. The Local Government Association, for instance, has claimed the costs of temporary accommodation are becoming ‘unsustainable.’ It was recently reported that measures implemented in the towns of Warwick and Leamington Spa last month saw the number of beds offered by Warwickshire County Council’s homelessness support services cut from 120 to 57. Indeed, just last week, Labour councillor Colin Quinney claimed that a public debate on the issue had been ‘choked off’ by local authorities.

Speaking to the Leamington Courier last week, he claimed that ‘the current amount of people who are housed in temporary “B&B” accommodation is rising and could cost the council an addition [sic.] £50,000…We already have 3,000 local residents on the waiting list and this will simply have a knock-on effect and make the situation worse for everyone.’

Temporary accommodation is relied upon heavily by homeless Britons, especially during the winter months. It is usually an important stepping-stone between sleeping rough and taking up a place in settled accommodation. Councils generally offer many different types of temporary accommodation, including bedsits, flats, houses, bed and breakfasts and hostel rooms.

Nevertheless, it should be remembered that the spending increase by the UK government over the past five years on temporary accommodation follows an increased reliance upon it: a signal that times are ultimately getting harder, not better. Few wish to rely upon government support if it’s avoidable; but with winter setting in, the use of temporary accommodation is expected to rise.

If you wish to donate to the charities above, you can follow the links here: Crisis, Shelter.

James Stannard

James has a Bachelor’s degree in History and wrote his dissertation on beef and protest. His heroes list ranges from Adele to Noam Chomsky: inspirations he’ll be invoking next year when he begins a Master’s degree in London.