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New survey reveals toll of pandemic on hard-pressed families

Published: 22 March 2021

New survey reveals toll of pandemic on hard-pressed families

  • Councils report increased food bank usage, mediation in family breakdowns and homelessness
  • Fears things could get worse once eviction ban is lifted at the end of May
  • Call for welfare support measures to continue so households avoid “disaster”

Nearly every district council in England has seen a spike in people using food banks during the pandemic, while two thirds report an increase in having to mediate in family breakdowns, according to a new survey which reveals the devastating impact of COVID-19 on hard-pressed families.

The survey by the District Councils’ Network lays bare the challenges and financial hardship households have faced in the last year, and the support they have needed from their local authority.

These range from intervening in family disputes, managing increased homeless and mediating with landlords despite the eviction ban.

Among the survey’s key findings, during 2020/21, compared with the year before the pandemic:

  • More than nine in 10 district councils have reported an increase in food bank usage
  • Almost two-thirds have had to provide support and mediation in family disputes and crises during lockdown
  • Eighty-five per cent have seen an increase in claims from homeless households for temporary accommodation
  • Despite the eviction ban, nearly half of districts have had to intervene in more disputes with landlords and tenants than before the pandemic
  • Ninety-three per cent of district councils have seen an increase in demand for help with paying council tax

Councils have welcomed measures brought in by Government across the pandemic but are concerned that there will be further rise in need for help when the eviction ban ends on 31 May.

Nearly three-quarters anticipate a likely rise in rough sleeping and almost nine in 10 districts expect an increase in homelessness.

The DCN, which represents 187 district councils in England responsible for directly supporting households facing hardship, is calling for a continuation of many supportive measures introduced by government during the pandemic.

This should see an increase in the Local Housing Allowance to reduce the risks of homelessness, and further funding and flexibilities in council tax support and discretionary housing payments.

Councils are saying a further extension of the eviction ban will be essential and that in the meantime the Government must work with councils to introduce the measures that prevents the likely wave in homelessness following it eventually being lifted.

The DCN has previously warned that nearly half a million (486,242) private tenants who pay over half their income on rent could be at risk of eviction when the ban ends.

Cllr Giles Archibald, DCN’s Better Lives spokesperson, said:

“These hard-hitting findings reveal the devastating toll of coronavirus on households who have struggled to pay the bills, put food on the table, and keep a roof over their heads.

“The Government has stepped in and provided much-needed additional support for families.

“But while these have been welcome, there are serious concerns that if many measures do not continue, many families will be unable to get by.

“District councils, who have been on the frontline fighting coronavirus, will continue to do everything they can to support households facing hardship.

“However, this needs to be backed up with the continuation of many welfare measures brought in during the pandemic, and support for councils to lead the local effort to create jobs and support families across our towns and cities. Without this many families could face disaster.”


Notes to editors

Full survey – which received responses from 70 district councils – available on request

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: 22nd March 2021

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