A new government report shows that a total of 5,159 children and pregnant women were in temporary accommodation arranged by their local authority in the West Midlands at the end of September. That included 3,648 in Birmingham alone. It meant 576 children or expectant mothers in Birmingham were living in bed and breakfast accommodation found for them by the council, and 187 were in hostels.
The majority were found accommodation with a private landlord or in a property owned by the council. The statistics were published by the Department for Communities and the Local Government Association, as an independent watchdog warned that even people in good jobs are at risk of becoming homeless. People such as nurses are now struggling to afford a roof over their head, according to Michael King, the Local Government Ombudsman. The problem is caused by the increasing cost of private rents.
He said: “Our cases show many pre-conceived ideas about the people affected by homelessness simply no longer ring true. The increasing cost of private rents has meant we have seen a shift towards more people in professions such as nursing, and their families, becoming affected.” But Mr King, who deals with complaints about councils, said he was concerned that local authorities were failing to provide adequate accommodation for people who are homeless.
Communities Secretary Sajid Javid, the MP for Bromsgrove, wanted to wanted the Government to borrow to build new homes. Privately, he is said to have wanted £50 billion for housebuilding. But Chancellor Philip Hammond was reluctant to authorise borrowing on this scale. His preferred option was to open up green belt land for building – but this is opposed by many Conservative MPs.
A spokeswoman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said: “Tackling homelessness is a complex issue with no single solution, but we are determined to help the most vulnerable in society. “That’s why we are providing over £1 billion up to 2020 to prevent and reduce all forms of homelessness and rough sleeping. We are also bringing in the Homelessness Reduction Act – the most ambitious legislation in decades that will mean people get the support they need earlier.
“Councils have a duty to provide safe, secure and suitable temporary accommodation.”