Telford and Wrekin sees 14 per cent rise in number of people entitled to homelessness support

More than 1,500 people in Shropshire were entitled to homelessness support last year.

The Local Government Association has urged leaders to provide "desperately needed" social housing, with council homelessness services already under pressure before the Covid-19 crisis hit.

Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government data shows that 1,509 households across Shropshire were assessed as entitled to help from local authorities in the year to March.

Of those, 454 were in Telford and Wrekin with the remaining 1,055 in the Shropshire Council area.

The number in Telford and Wrekin was up 14 per cent on the previous year – 398 cases – while Shropshire saw a three per cent increase as it was 1,026 the year before.

It reflected the picture across England, where 288,470 households were owed a homelessness prevention or relief duty in the 2019-20 financial year, rising by seven per cent from 269,500 a year earlier.

David Renard, the Local Government Association's housing spokesperson, said the figures highlight "increased demand pressures" on councils.

“The long-term impact of coronavirus on council homelessness services, which were already under significant pressures before the pandemic, is currently unclear.

"It is vital that the spending review shifts the Government’s focus towards the key drivers of homelessness, including a lack of affordable housing, welfare-related poverty, and a lack of an integrated prevention approach."

'Deep inequality and systemic racism'

The figures also show that black people were disproportionately affected by homelessness in Shropshire last year, with black people in Telford and Wrekin representing four per cent – 18 – of those entitled to support despite only making up 1.1 per cent of the population, according to the latest census.

Of the lead applicants from households in the Shropshire Council area, 0.6 per cent – or six – were black, while black households are estimated to make up only 0.1 per cent of the population there.

The ethnicity of 214 of the applicants – 200 in Shropshire and 14 in Telford and Wrekin – was unknown or not recorded.

Polly Neate, chief executive of housing charity Shelter, said "deep inequality and systemic racism" in the housing system needs addressing, and warned the legacy of the coronavirus pandemic must not be one of rising homelessness.

“We must act fast, because the pandemic we are now enduring is only intensifying the housing emergency and its destructive inequalities," she added.

Across England, a quarter of households owed help to relieve or prevent homelessness included a person in full or part-time work.

Unemployed

Of the lead applicants from these households, 25.9 per cent, or 74,580, were in employment and 30.5 per cent, or 88,030, were registered as unemployed.

The Homelessness Reduction Act, introduced in 2018, placed a duty on councils to try to prevent homelessness, and on public bodies to refer those at risk of becoming homeless to the local authority's housing department.

An MHCLG spokesman said it is ensuring more people get the help they need to prevent them from becoming homeless.

He added: "We’re committed to breaking the cycle of homelessness and ending rough sleeping for good, and the Government has allocated over half a billion pounds this year to protect some of the most vulnerable people in society."

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