A report by the Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman has found that homelessness is increasingly affecting families from areas and professions who previously might never have expected to face problems finding somewhere to live. The report, Still no place like home?, shows in 2016–17 one in three complaints received about homelessness services delivered by English authorities came from outside of London. The report says many complaints came from people forced to call on their local council’s help by the increasing unaffordability of private tenancies.
In 2016–17, the Ombudsman received around 450 complaints about homelessness. Of those it investigated in detail, it found fault in seven out of 10 cases.
The Ombudsman shared its findings on councils’ inappropriate use of bed and breakfast accommodation to house families and children in a national report in 2013. It says four years on, it is worrying that many of the problems identified in that report persist today.
The new report shows families have been stuck in bed and breakfast accommodation for significantly longer than the six-week legal limit, some for more than two years.
Families are increasingly having to stay in conditions where damp or infestation is a problem, often affecting their physical and mental health.
The report also gives local authorities best practice guidance to help councils get things right. It offers councillors and scrutiny chairs a number of questions they can ask of their own authorities to ensure they challenge the number of families left in unsuitable accommodation for too long.
Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said:
‘We’re seeing signs the problems are growing more acute, particularly with an increase in the length of time families are having to stay in temporary accommodation…More worrying still, we are finding that many families are not being told of their review rights when placed in unsuitable accommodation, so they have no information on how to challenge the decision and improve their circumstances.’