Thousands of families needed help from councils after being served with eviction notices once protections were removed. Image: George Becker / Pexels
Big Issue founder Lord John Bird will lead calls in the House of Lords for immediate action to prevent a mass homelessness crisis as new statistics show there was a surge in families facing eviction when Covid restrictions lifted.
More than 3,000 households were threatened with homelessness or lost their home after being served an no-fault eviction notice – when a landlord can evict without offering a reason – in April and June 2021, up 105 per cent year on year.
In total 66,000 families needed help from their council to prevent or relieve homelessness over the three months, official statistics show. Of those, more than 30,000 needed help specifically to prevent homelessness. The figure is an 18 per cent rise in just a year and is “likely to reflect” the removal of most eviction protections in May 2021, according to the report from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.
With further Covid support removed in recent weeks, such as the £20 universal credit increase and the end of the furlough scheme, and rising energy prices, Lord Bird is warning immediate action is needed to stop mass homelessness this winter.
“We must act now to support people to stay in their homes – otherwise they will slip into the costly and mentally damaging world of homelessness,” said Lord Bird.
The 66,000 households in England needing support from councils is a one per cent rise on the same quarter in 2020, which statisticians described as the “peak of the impact of Covid-19”.
There was a fall in the number of single households that needed support from councils, down almost nine per cent on April to June 2020, partly due to impact of the Everyone In scheme.
However, there was a significant year-on-year increase in households with children that needed support, up by a third to 20,850.
The impact of Covid could still be felt in the most common reason given for homelessness. Almost 10,000 households needed support from local authorities after being unable to stay with family or friends..
But those households in rented accommodation saw the impacts of the pandemic first-hand. The statistics show a 98 per cent increase in the number of households asking councils for help as landlords were wishing to sell or re-let their property.
Matt Downie, director of policy and external affairs at Crisis, said: “These figures show the first signs of what we feared – once emergency measures were lifted, households began to feel the full force of the financial pressures of the pandemic and we’re now seeing a surge in people experiencing homelessness.”
The Westminster government has announced measures to prevent homelessness in recent days, unveiling a £65m support package for vulnerable renters who have racked up rent arrears during the pandemic. Chancellor Rishi Sunak also announced £640m of annual funding to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping at the Budget.
Lord Bird has warned more support will be necessary to prevent surging homelessness this winter. The Big Issue has launched the Stop Mass Homelessness campaign urging a focus on helping renters with £360m in rent arrears as well as calling for an end to no-fault evictions.
The campaign is asking for more support to help people transition into jobs and training in sustainable industries too.
Bird will debate the issue with peers in the Lords on Thursday.
“It is vital that they are taking preventative action to ensure people will not be left homeless this winter,” added Bird. “The end of furlough and the lift of the eviction ban have posed a very grave danger to everyday families and individuals who are struggling to make ends meet as a result of Covid-19 poverty.
“However, further action must be taken if we are to prevent a mass homelessness crisis.. The cost of fully paying off rent arrears is substantially less than the cost of letting someone slip into homelessness. So, that is why I am urging the government today to take action and stop mass homelessness.”
Support The Big Issue’s Stop Mass Homelessness campaign by signing our petition, becoming a community champion or writing to your MP or local council to ask for their support. Head here for details on how to get involved.
Buy a Big Issue Winter Support Kit for £34.99, you’ll receive four copies of the magazine and vendors could receive immediate tools for survival plus access to vital training and employment pathways to escape poverty for good.