The number of homeless families living in emergency bed and breakfast accommodation is at its highest in nearly ten years, says the housing and homelessness charity Shelter.
The charity says 2,090 homeless families across England have been placed in B&Bs after losing their homes, an eight per cent rise on the same period last year, and the highest since September 2003.
Overall homeless figures also rose by more than five per cent in the last year. This includes 8,790 families with children – the equivalent of one family losing their home every 15 minutes.
A Shelter poll found that six in every ten working families paying mortgage or rent are struggling with their payments. Campbell Robb, Shelter’s chief executive, said: "These figures are a wake-up call. Ordinary families are falling through the net and risk losing everything."
Shelter warns that more families will need help at the same time as the government are making cuts to the housing safety net, including restrictions on housing benefit and support for homeowners facing repossession.
The charity reports that it sees many families placed in unsuitable B&B-style accommodation, often for weeks at a time. Of these, 43,090 included dependent children or a pregnant woman. The housing minister, Mark Prisk has said that homelessness remains lower than in 27 of the past 30 years and that councils have been given £470 million to tackle the problem.
However, Campbell Robb expressed concern about the shrinking safety net, saying: "People may be talking about green shoots, but every day our advisers speak to people who are terrified of what will happen to them because they don’t know how they will pay their rent or mortgage after a sudden drop in income.
‘We are asking the government to urgently build up the support available to families who face losing their homes, and to protect the safety net that gives families who fall on hard times the advice and support they need to rebuild their lives."