NEW ANALYSIS BY CRISIS, the homelessness charity, warns of the extent that families across England will be forced to go without essentials in order to keep a roof over their heads, as rising living costs, a real terms cut to housing benefit, and further UK Government funding cuts to housing support all start to mount.
To try and manage these spiralling costs, low-income renters in most parts of England will be forced to forego the equivalent of at least one day of both food and heating a week, otherwise they risk falling into arrears and facing eviction or getting behind with crucial bills. With rents rising sharply across the country, new UK government data shows that housing benefit is no longer covering the cost of renting a modest property in most parts of England, with families on the breadline facing, on average, a £372 deficit that they need to make up in other ways.
This comes at a time when the cost-of-living crisis is aggressively eating into household budgets, with inflation set to push up yearly food prices by an average of £290 and energy bills expected to rise by nearly £550, taking the combined increase in living costs for the poorest families to an average of just over £1,200 in just one year.
Renters in parts of London are set to be the hardest hit where even going without food and heating every day will not be enough to keep up with the rising costs. In outer South East London the average yearly rent of a modest two bed property is £14,301 compared to the housing benefit entitlement of £13,164, leaving a shortfall of £1,137. Combining this with the other increases in the cost of the living, struggling renters in this area will be forced to give up the equivalent of nearly two days of both food and heating a week to try to keep on top of the crippling costs.
This is not just an issue in the South, renters in East Cheshire and Central Greater Manchester will also be forced to go without a warm home and food on the table for at least a day and half every week to keep up with mounting financial pressures.
While the UK government has announced a temporary support package to assist with rising energy bills consisting of a council tax rebate and expanding the warm home discount scheme, these mitigations have been widely criticised by the charity sector for failing to provide targeted support to those most in need through the benefits system.
Despite inflation being predicted to reach almost eight per cent by April, the UK government confirmed last month that it will uprate benefits by just 3.1 per cent, while housing benefit is facing an even more severe cut by being frozen altogether. At the same time, the UK government is cutting funding available to local councils to support struggling renters through Discretionary Housing Payments by £40 million, down by more than 25 per cent relative to last year. The impact of this, the charity warns, could lead to tens of thousands of people falling into arrears and facing eviction as people struggle to stay afloat.
Crisis is calling on the UK government to urgently invest in housing benefit so that it covers the true cost of people’s rents if it wants to prevent a surge in homelessness over the coming months.
Matt Downie, Crisis Chief Executive, said: “It’s deeply shameful that struggling renters will be forced to go without food and heating for several days in order to a keep a roof over their head.
“Having a secure home was deemed crucial to the health of our nation during the pandemic but with all of those protections now gone and household finances being squeezed to breaking point, we’re at risk of seeing thousands of people pushed into homelessness, while for others it will become harder to leave it behind if we fail to act.
“Increasing housing benefit so it covers the true cost of rents would be the quickest and most effective way to keep people in their homes. We cannot idly stand by and watch all the progress made to tackle homelessness during the pandemic unravel and why we’re urging the UK government to reverse this cut before it’s too late.”
* Source: Crisis