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9 in 10 councils expect wave of homelessness if plug pulled on all emergency measures  

Published: 18 May 2021

9 in 10 councils expect wave of homelessness if plug pulled on all emergency measures  

Protections for families on the breadline during the pandemic should be withdrawn cautiously to avoid derailing the national recovery and prevent a surge in households unable to pay their bills or rent, a new report by the District Councils’ Network warns today.

The report ‘Building back better – leaving no-one behind’, says the Government should keep in place some measures to prevent hardship and homelessness, such as increasing the Local Housing Allowance, while schemes like the furlough scheme and the eviction ban are withdrawn.

It warns that nearly 9 in 10 councils are expecting sharp increases in homelessness if some measures are pulled too fast.

The DCN, which represents 180 district councils responsible for supporting families and people on the breadline, says removing all the protective measures at once would risk plunging many families into crisis, undermining the efforts to support them across the pandemic.

It warns the Government to “retreat carefully” from the significant interventions it has made to protect people during the coronavirus crisis.

The stark warnings come as a survey of district councils by the DCN found:-

  • 87 per cent of councils expect sharp increases in homelessness should some of the emergency measures be withdrawn
  • Nearly half reported an increase in the need to mediate with landlords to support tenancies during the pandemic, despite the eviction ban
  • Nine in 10 saw increases in the use of foodbanks in their local area

While measures such as the furlough scheme and evictions ban cannot and should not continue forever, the DCN says the Government cannot pull the plug on these sorts of initiatives immediately either without having the right local support to help people at risk.

The DCN is calling for:

  • Retention of the increase in the Local Housing Allowance so that benefits can keep people in their homes
  • A “flexible prevention pot” for districts to work locally to solve problems and help people experiencing hardship and debt.
  • A careful phasing out of the job retention scheme for different sectors over different periods, protecting people in the hardest hit sectors for longer.

It also says all future funding for addressing hardship, poverty and homelessness must be channelled through district councils, which have the on-the-ground expertise, knowledge and direct connections with households.

District councils know those in greatest need and have the mechanisms through direct help hubs, assistance schemes and local volunteer networks – such as with food banks and local charities – to quickly get help to those on the breadline.

Cllr Giles Archibald, the District Councils’ Network’s Better Lives spokesperson, said:

“The coronavirus crisis has hit many people hard and the economic impact will continue to be felt for some time.

“Therefore it is vital, that as we come out of the pandemic, we don’t rush to unravel the unprecedented level of support the Government rightly provided to protect families at risk of hardship and homelessness.

“Everyone understands interventions like the furlough scheme and evictions ban cannot continue forever, but we cannot pull them all away overnight either.

“The Government must retreat carefully from these big national interventions, while equipping local district councils with the funding and flexibility to solve problems before they grow in impact and cost.”

“As we build back better, we must ensure councils can ensure no-one is left behind.”

Notes to editors

The District Councils’ Network (DCN) is a cross-party member led network providing a single voice to 187 district councils. District councils in England deliver 86 out of 137 essential local government services to over 22 million people – 40 per cent of the population – and cover 68 per cent of the country by area. They play a key role in local communities, providing services such as building homes, collecting waste, regenerating town centres, preventing homelessness, keeping streets clean and maintaining parks.

Contact: District Councils’ Network press office 020 7664 3333

Date: 18th May 2021

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