No room at the inn for the 50,000 households classified as homeless this Christmas

Rough sleeping is up by a third since 2009


Food, shelter and freedom from crushing debt should be the basic ingredients of a decent life in one the world’s wealthiest, advanced countries – the UK has a collective wealth of £11.1tr. The lack of these basics is a feature of Tory Britain in 2015 and is felt more keenly at this time of year by those on the lowest incomes.

Charity the Trussell Trust reports that more than one million households used its 425 food banks during 2014/15 – a 26-fold increase from the 41,000 in 2009/10. Increased reliance upon food banks has been precipitated by austerity and welfare cuts, and the chaos surrounding the introduction of Iain Duncan Smith’s ‘flagship’ Universal Credit scheme.

As Helen Lewis comments in the New Statesman:

‘Five years ago, food banks were almost unknown, but more than a million Britons used them in the year to April. Inconveniently for Iain Duncan Smith’s self-image as the Messiah, the Trussell Trust told the Commons work and pensions select committee recently that one in four of its clients had to resort to using a food bank because of benefit delays.’

Muddles around the implementation of UC have precipitated a rent arrears crisis for the majority of council tenant claimants. According to a survey published by the National Federation of ALMOs (NFA) and the Association of Retained Council Housing (ARCH), 9 in 10 council tenants moved onto UC have now slipped into rent arrears.

The six week UC assessment period, combined with the initial seven day waiting period, is seriously affecting council tenants’ ability to maintain rent payments, which is the main reason for growing arrears, the survey reveals.

Escalating rent arrears are the tip of a worsening debt iceberg that could yet puncture recent improvements in the UK economy. The Office of Budget Responsibility, the government financial watchdog, predicts that households will take on £40bn of extra debt next year. Indeed, the chancellor’s economic growth targets and debt reduction strategy are predicated on higher household debt to fuel growth.

Household borrowing in 2016 is set to approach levels last seen in the run-up to the financial crash in 2008, sparking fears that the UK is repeating economic policy mistakes of the past with economic prosperity over-reliant upon debt and asset bubbles rather than investment and improving productivity.

But perhaps the most visible indication that we are not ‘all in this together’ as the chancellor constantly claims, is the inexorable rise in homelessness. For many this Christmas, there is ‘no room at the inn’.

Statutory homelessness is 23 per cent higher this year than in 2009 with around 50,000 households accepted as homeless by local councils across England. Rough sleeping is up by about one third over the same period. And Department of Communities and Local Government figures reveal that there are more than 3,000 families with children living in temporary housing, such as low grade, but expensive for the taxpayer, bed and breakfast hotels.

It is unclear how, in such a wealthy country, a lack of food, shelter and a growing debt burden can be justified by the government in order that more and more wealth can accumulate at the top. Merry Christmas.

Kevin Gulliver is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward and a director of Birmingham-based research charity the Human City Institute and chair of the Centre for Community Research. He writes in a personal capacity

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9 Responses to “No room at the inn for the 50,000 households classified as homeless this Christmas”

  1. Sky Pixie

    It seems that the aid budget is being used to settle 10,000 syrians rather than our own destitute, it is sickening. The aid budget is compassion signalling on a national scale

  2. Intolerant_Liberal

    ‘It is unclear how, in such a wealthy country, a lack of food, shelter and a growing debt burden can be justified by the government in order that more and more wealth can accumulate at the top. Merry Christmas.’
    On the contrary, it is very clear. The Tories are unopposed whilst the Left, filled with champagne socialists and wealthy middle class educated politicians, bicker over Jeremy Corbyn and the future of the labour party. Very few politicians now, if any, know what it is like to work low paid and insecure and zero hours contracts jobs, therefore they have no real knowledge, and probably care little, for those at the sharp of end of this government’s class war on the poor, disabled and otherwise marginalised and disenfranchised.
    Democracy does not work when most of those in power are middle and upper middle class and mostly come from London and the wealthy South East. It is a cosy club and it needs challenging. Piecemeal rights here and there don’t work. We should help our poor first and help those in Syria too. But charity begins at home…
    Merry Christmas…

    So much for Christian value, Dave. Don’t see much evidence of that coming from the Tory party.

  3. Sid

    But refugee/immigrants will be housed straight away and given all sorts of benefits.

  4. Intolerant_Liberal

    The affluent ‘concern’ for those suffering abroad fulfils a number of useful functions. They can challenge injustice and poverty in a way that doesn’t challenge the divisions and injustice in England that the class, racial and particularly economic divisions create here, they can dismiss the poverty on their doorsteps by showing extra concern for global issues, because poverty and the increasing pauperisation of the poorest sections of all communities in the UK seems to be beneath the concerns of the equality loving and left leaning affluent liberals, apparently.
    Charity and compassion should be open ended, and not selective as it is now. All the charity work from many of those proclaiming to care, looks like Victorian charity, i.e. the deserving and undeserving poor. And that is when it becomes hypocritical and unjust. Yes, it is good to help those escaping the chaos in Syria but it is also good to acknowledge that people are going hungry here and suffering too, and some of that is because rich people are getting tax breaks they don’t need, and there is a compliant and complacent middle class who seem not overly concerned or bothered about the growing economic divisions and injustice RIGHT HERE IN THE UK.

  5. Thanks Tank

    They aren’t from the smelly English working class is the main reason for the left.

  6. notme3

    Lies, damn lies and statistics.
    In case people are wondering, could the author please explain to us why they use 2009 as the base line for homelessness and rough sleeping?

    Clue: Its the same reason those who are skeptical about man made climate change use 1998 as the base year for determining that there hasnt been a single day of global warming for eighteen years.

    2009 was an outlayer, in fact 50,000 figure referred to here is actually historically very low, in 2003 it was 135,000!!!!

    The homelessness figures for this year are the fifth lowest of the last 35 years, since records began to be collected, and actually lower than in 1979.

  7. Intolerant_Liberal

    Do numbers really matter? What they should be asking is why there is homeless and poverty and economic division in a country that is 6th or 7th richest in the world. And why the Tories have not only completely abandoned the disabled, the unemployed poor, they are also attacking those in low paid work, too?
    They said Corbyn want to return us to the 70s. Whereas the Tories are returning us to the mid 19th century. Hypocrites one and all.

  8. notme3

    Of course they matter, and enormously so. The whole basis of the article is how awful the plight of the homeless is, and then for the ignorant/stupid they base line their stats to make the situation sound a terrible indictment of evil Tory rule. When this is far from the case. Homelessness is at a low point and one of the lowest for thirty years.

    So having based an article on deceptive use of figures, when called out on this manipulation the response is that the figures don’t matter because the Tories are really evil.

    Yes, the Tories have abandoned the unemployed by creating a jobs miracle in which unemployment had dropped like a stone and millions of more people are in work.

  9. Bradley B.

    Well they can rest assured by the political class and their media associates that migration has nothing to do with reducing availability.

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