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Homelessness

Question for Department for Communities and Local Government

UIN HL5059, tabled on 23 February 2015

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to ensure that those local authorities currently breaching the maximum six-week limit on the placement of homeless families with children in bed and breakfast accommodation established by the Homelessness (Suitability of Accommodation) (England) Order 2003 are prevented from doing so.

Answered on

9 March 2015

The Government has been clear that the long term use of bed and breakfast accommodation for families with children is both unacceptable and unlawful. The law is very clear on this matter. It says that bed and breakfast accommodation should only ever be used to house homeless families in an emergency, and then for no longer than six weeks.

Further legal protections also give households the right to challenge an authority’s use of this accommodation. Under section 202 of the Housing Act 1996, households have the right to challenge an authority’s decision to place them in such accommodation for longer than six weeks. Statutory homelessness guidance which local housing authorities must, by law, have regard to says that when using bed and breakfast accommodation the authority should notify the family of the effect of the law. In particular, that it is unlawful for the authority to continue to secure bed and breakfast accommodation for families with children any longer than six weeks.

Recent figures show a significant reduction (38 per cent on the same quarter as last year) in the numbers of families with children in bed and breakfast accommodation for longer than six weeks.

We have kept up the pressure on this issue. Actions included housing Ministers writing to those authorities with the highest numbers in bed and breakfast accommodation, challenging them to take action and calling them in to hear their plans to reduce the numbers.

We invested almost £2 million to support local authorities to develop innovative and sustainable solutions to prevent unlawful bed and breakfast use for families with children. The seven funded authorities have achieved and sustained 96% average reduction in the number of households with children in bed and breakfast for longer than six weeks. Lessons learned from this funding have been used to develop a comprehensive training package to help those authorities who were not funded to develop the same successful approaches.

This investment comes on top of over £500 million this Government has provided to prevent and tackle homelessness. Homelessness acceptances remain lower than in 27 of the last 30 years, and homelessness is around half the average level it was under the previous Government. Households now spend on average seven months less in temporary accommodation than at the start of 2010.