Devon listed among places with rising homelessness

The number of homeless households in England has risen by a quarter in the last three years, new figures show – with Torridge in Devon among areas with the highest percentage increases.

Some 50,290 families and individuals were classed as homeless and in need of emergency accommodation in 2011/12, compared with 40,020 in 2009/10 – an increase of more than 25%. But despite the rise in the number of cases, spending on tackling homelessness fell from £213.7 million to £199.8 million between 2009/10 and 2010/11, data experts SSentif said.

Local housing authorities have a legal duty to provide emergency accommodation for “priority need” groups left without a home. They include households with dependent children, pregnant women, vulnerable people with a mental illness or physical disability, victims of domestic violence and people left without homes due to a disaster such as fire or flooding.

Priority-need categories also include applicants aged 16 or 17; 18 to 20-year-olds who were previously in care; people left vulnerable as a result of time spent in care, in custody, or the armed forces, and those who have fled their homes because of violence or the threat of violence.

Last year alone saw 6,130 more households in England left homeless in 2011/12 – a rise of almost 14%, according to figures from SSentif.

Regionally, the highest percentage increase was the East of England, with the number of cases rising from 3,660 in 2009/10 to 5,270 in 2011/12 – a 44% increase.

The South East has seen a 38% rise in the number of households without a home, with 5,320 cases in 2011/12 compared with 3,870 in 2009/10. London had a 34% rise in the number of homeless households, to 12,720 cases in 2011/12 from 9,460 in 2009/10.

The only region to see a fall in the number of households declared homeless was the North East, which saw a reduction of more than 10% from 2,010 in 2009/10 to 1,800 in 2011/12.

The largest regional increase was in Birmingham, with 3,929 households requiring emergency accommodation – an increase of 558 cases compared with 2009/10.

It was closely followed by Sheffield, which reported 1,383 households as homeless – an increase of 437 people (46%) on 2009/10.

London boroughs Croydon, Lambeth, Waltham Forest, Hounslow and Kensington and Chelsea, as well as Northampton and Leeds, were also among the areas with the highest increases in homeless households.

The area with the largest percentage increase was

Broxbourne in Hertfordshire, which reported 119 households as homeless in 2011/12, compared with just one case in 2009/10.

West Berkshire, Middlesbrough, Hertsmere in Hertfordshire, Guildford, Elm-bridge and Spelthorne in Surrey, and Torridge in Devon were also among the areas with the highest percentage increases in households declared homeless.

A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said: “These figures are a narrow and misleading snapshot.

“The bigger picture is that homelessness is actually lower than for 28 of the last 30 years – and is half the average rate seen under the previous government.

“We have maintained funding for homelessness grants

at 2010/11 levels with £400 million over the next four years, and on top of that we announced an additional £70 million investment over the last year.”