Families in Gloucestershire increasingly at risk of homelessness, statistics show
DIFFICULTY in accessing the private rent sector and changes to the benefit system are forcing homelessness on more families with young children in Gloucestershire.
The latest statistics for a three month period in 2012 show that compared to the same period last year there has been a drastic increase in households with young people who have experienced statutory homelessness.
Statutory homelessness is defined as where a household is defined as homeless by a local authority and the council will have a duty to find accommodation for them as long as their need is a 'priority' and they are not 'intentionally' without a home.
The figures are reported a quarter in arrears, so at the end of September 2012 there were 168 households in the county in this situation compared to 119 in September 2011.
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It means an extra 49 households were struggling to find a roof to go over their heads.
According to the County Council the increase 'would suggest that impact following changes to the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) is now being felt'.
LHA dictates how much money a claimant can receive in housing benefit and it is now directly related to how many bedrooms you are entitled to rather than how big your actual house is.
There is also a limit on how much a person can receive depending on where they live.
This has caused problems for some families who simply cannot afford to stay in their home.
And this has been compounded by the challenge of a private rental sector which is often reluctant to accept tenants who are on benefits.
According to the council it is not alone in this problem with authorities across the land also experiencing difficulty.
As a result the county council is trying to work more with private landlords to help solve the problem.
Councillor Peter Jeffries (LD, Springbank), Cheltenham Borough Council cabinet member for housing and safety, said: "Any changes that have occurred in relation to policy that might be having an effect on families and increased levels of statutory homelessness, if we have any influence at a borough level, then we should definitely look at what we are able to do to help these people.
"We should also be using our influence at a county and national level to put the pressure on to make changes if they are needed."