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Homeless figures show B&B use rise
The 500 pound-a-week benefit cap could force many people homeless families on to the streets, the National Housing Federation said
The number of homeless families forced to live in bed and breakfasts (B&Bs) has risen dramatically over the past year, according to research by affordable housing campaigners.
Between January and March this year there were 3,960 families living in B&Bs, up almost half from 2,750 during the same period in 2011, the National Housing Federation found. The increase comes as rising homelessness puts pressure on other more suitable forms of temporary accommodation, such as houses and flats held by local authorities and housing associations.
About 26,000 homeless families live in such accommodation but the National Housing Federation warned that the forthcoming £500-a-week benefit cap could force many of those into B&Bs or onto the streets.
The group's chief executive David Orr said: "In a B&B, whole families can find themselves sharing one room and they are often shut out of their accommodation during the day, causing huge disruption to daily routines of school and work.
"Every child deserves a decent home to come back to after school, where they feel secure and where they can sit down to do their homework. Without the safety net of temporary accommodation, thousands more families will find themselves in a vicious cycle of homelessness. It is essential that the Government puts in place measures to protect this crucial service and the vulnerable families who depend on it."
Those qualifying for assistance with homelessness has risen from 40,020 in 2009/10 to 50,290 in 2011/12.
Shadow housing minister Jack Dromey said: "Because the Tory-led Government cut too far, too fast, Britain is gripped by the toxic combination of the worst housing crisis in a generation and the longest double-dip recession since the war.
"Affordable housebuilding is down 68% and homelessness up by 26%. For a family to lose their home is heartbreaking. To end up packed into overcrowded rooms in bed and breakfast shames our country and is a shameful failure of a failing Government."
Housing Minister Mark Prisk said: "There is no excuse for any family to be stuck in bed and breakfast accommodation and we have offered support to those 20 councils who between them account for 80% of families in this situation for an unacceptably long time. We have some of the strongest protections in the world to safeguard people from homelessness and levels remain lower than in 28 of the last 30 years.
"Councils have a range of options at their disposal to help anyone facing the threat of losing their home, and to help them further we've increased the discretionary housing pot to about £400 million over the spending period to help families with the transition to the new, fairer, system of benefits."
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