22/06/2012 | By Emily Twinch, Inside Housing

Councils are blaming government cuts to housing benefit for rising homelessness applications and a huge increase in the use of bed and breakfast accommodation.

Figures released by the Communities and Local Government department last Friday showed homelessness acceptances jumped 16 per cent in the first quarter of this year compared with the same period last year. The use of B&B accommodation had also risen dramatically by 44 per cent.

Between January and March this year, 13,130 people were accepted as homeless compared with 11,350 in the same quarter last year. The number of households in B&B accommodation rose from 2,750 on 31 March last year to 3,960 this year.

Jonathan Glanz, Conservative member for housing at Westminster Council, said: ‘The [housing benefit] caps kicked in and made an additional contribution to those figures. It is certainly the case people have been presenting as homeless because they are unable to meet their rent by housing benefit. This was expected by [the] people who put the policy in place.’

Sir Steve Bullock, executive member for housing at London Councils, said: ‘After years of falls in homelessness this worrying rise is an indirect result of the changes in the housing benefit system. Increasingly people are having huge difficulty finding affordable housing in the capital.’

Karen Buck, MP for Westminster North, said: ‘Housing officers are being told to respect local connection [not housing people far from their local area], cut down on housing benefit, and cut down on temporary accommodation and B&Bs. Westminster [government] is making every single situation an impossibility.’

Umbrella group Homeless Link also revealed figures from its Homeless UK database last Friday which showed 4,000 bed spaces in accommodation for homeless people have been lost because of funding cuts since January 2010. The greatest loss of bed spaces was in the past six months of 1,686 (from 41,449 in November 2011 to 39,763 this May).

A CLG spokesperson said: ‘Even after housing benefit reform a third of properties will be available in most areas and the government is willing to meet rents of up to £400 a week or over £20,000 a year. The government is providing councils with £190 million to help people during housing benefit reform.’

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