Ministers warned homeless services are at 'breaking point' amid soaring cost of putting families in B&Bs
Ministers have been warned that homelessness services are at “breaking point” as cash-strapped councils are forced to place more and more families in bed and breakfast accommodation.
New research from the Local Government Association (LGA) - an umbrella group for local authorities - revealed that two-thirds of all council homelessness services were plunged into the red last year due to soaring costs and rising demand for B&Bs amid a housing shortage.
The group's analysis found that the number of homeless households being placed in B&Bs has now reached a 15-year-high at 7,110 - and has increased by 200% since December 2010.
Out of 226 councils across England responsible for homelessness budgets, nearly 70% overspent on their budgeted £502.7 million total.
Collectively, councils spent £140m more on homelessness services than they had budgeted for, the group said.
The LGA’s housing spokesman David Renard said: “Homelessness is a tragedy for every individual who experiences it and one of the most pressing issues facing councils and the Government.
“To reverse rising levels of homelessness, which represents huge human consequences and financial costs, the Government needs to invest in homelessness prevention.
He added: “We desperately need to be able to build more social housing to reduce the number of families being placed in temporary accommodation and bed and breakfasts.
"With adequate funding and powers, councils can boost efforts to prevent homelessness and get back to building the affordable homes the country needs."
The analysis came after housing charity Shelter said 1.15m households were now social housing waiting lists - a rise in 4% in the last year - while there was a net loss in 17,000 social homes in the same period.
The LGA is urging ministers to use the upcoming Budget to provide councils with sustainable funding to prevent homelessness. They are also calling for changes to parts fo the welfare system, such as local housing allowance rates, to protect families at risk of becoming homeless.
Seizing on the report, Labours' Shadow Housing Secretary John Healey said: “The rising homelessness visible in every town and city in our country shames the Conservatives.
“High homelessness is a direct result of Conservative decisions since 2010, to cut funding for vital services and refuse to enforce basic standards for renters facing eviction.
“Labour is challenging Ministers to back our plan to end rough sleeping and tackle the root causes of rising homelessness, starting with making 8,000 homes available for those with a history of rough sleeping.”
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has been approached for comment.