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Homelessness in England costs over 1.3 bln USD a year: report
Last Updated: 2017-09-14 07:53 | Xinhua
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Homelessness across England costs the the public sector more than 1.3 billion U.S. dollars a year, a report by the National Audit Office (NAO) revealed Wednesday.

The NAO in a critical report says the national government has not evaluated the impact of its welfare reforms on homelessness, or the impact of the mitigations that it has put in place.

NAO said there were 77,240 households in temporary accommodation in England in March 2017, an increase of 60 percent compared with March 2011.

The households include 120,540 children, an increase of 73 percent from March 2011, added NAO.

London accounts for 90 percent of families placed in temporary accommodation away from the British capital, with homeless charities claiming many had been sent to live many kilometers away from London.

The report said that three quarters of the total cost of homelessness, amounting to 1.12 billion U.S. dollars was spent on temporary accommodation.

NAO said tenancies coming to an end in the privately rented sector has overtaken all other causes to become the biggest single cause of statutory homelessness in England.

The proportion of households accepted as homeless by local authorities due to the end of an assured shorthold tenancy increased from 11 percent during 2009 to 2010 to 32 percent during 2016 to 2017. The proportion in London increased during the same period from 10 percent to 39 percent.

The report says it appears likely that government welfare reforms, which placed a cap on the amount local authorities pay towards rents in the private rented sector, have helped drive up homelessness. The cap made many homes unaffordable for families.

NAO said its report found that the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) does not have a published cross government strategy to prevent and tackle homelessness.

"It has, however, acknowledged the scale of the challenge and plans to improve the data the government holds on homelessness," said a spokesperson for NAO.

It adds that although DCLG is responsible for tackling homelessness, it has taken a light touch approach to working with local authorities. This contrasts with the more interventionist approach that DCLG took during previous periods of high homelessness.

"The ability of local authorities to respond to increased homelessness is constrained by the limited options they have to house homeless families," says the report, adding there has been a significant reduction in social housing over the past few decades.

Amyas Morse, head of the NAO said: "Homelessness in all its forms has significantly increased in recent years, driven by several factors. Despite this, government has not evaluated the impact of its reforms on this issue, and there remain gaps in its approach. It is difficult to understand why the DCLG persisted with its light touch approach in the face of such a visibly growing problem. Its recent performance in reducing homelessness therefore cannot be considered value for money".

Labour MP Meg Hillier, who chairs parliament's Public Accounts Committee, said: "It is a national scandal that more and more people are made homeless every year. This report illustrates the very real human cost of the government's failure to ensure people have access to affordable housing."

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