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Perfect storm of rising energy bills and Universal Credit cut will push many into homelessness

3 min read

Investing in people today by helping them find meaningful, paid employment and securing the roof over their heads will also give them the space, stability, and agency to think long-term.

For three decades, The Big Issue has supported people without a home to get back on their feet. As we stare down the barrel of a looming cost of living crisis, I urge the government to take the lead and prevent people from becoming poorer, sicker and less secure, at the hands of global shifts outside of their control.

We are approaching a cliff edge that could see unprecedented numbers of people being made homeless through Covid-19 created poverty. This perfect storm of energy bill increases, food price rises, and the end of the furlough scheme, exacerbated by a poorly timed Universal Credit cut, is likely to push many to the brink of homelessness. 

People should not be forced to choose between going hungry or ending up homeless

Already, we know that 4.3 million people are behind on household bills and 564,000 are people in rent arrears. This is only set to get worse, with an additional 392,000 additional households expected to fall into fuel poverty.

We know that £20 can cover half the cost of a weekly shop for a family. This just goes to show the kind of decisions that people will be forced to make this autumn:

Heating their home, or feeding their children?

Paying the rent, or paying the bills?

People should not be forced to choose between going hungry or ending up homeless.

We need urgent action to keep people in their homes, as this is much cheaper than letting people slip into costly homelessness. We must pay off the £360 million in rent arrears, put an end to no fault evictions and support people back into work.

Through paying off the £360 million in rent arrears and helping people to pay their rent and mortgage, we can prevent people falling into a cycle of debt that means they can no longer afford their home.

Putting an end to no fault evictions will ensure people have a stable home, which they aren’t at risk of losing through Covid-19. Investing in jobs and training in sustainable industries will help to future proof the job industry, ensuring people can afford their homes in the future. This is the sensible solution. We know that the cost of someone slipping into homelessness doubles the cost to Exchequer. Investing in preventative measures now will cost the nation far less and will help prevent a mass influx of newly homeless households.

Investing in people today by helping them find meaningful, paid employment and securing the roof over their heads will also give them the space, stability, and agency to think long-term. Poverty itself imposes a mental burden and hurts our ability to think long-term. When you don’t know where your next meal is coming from or how you’ll pay the rent next month, you just don’t have time to think about to think about the environmental impact of fast-fashion or the protection of our green spaces.

We have to learn the lessons of the last 18 months, in which we successfully shifted the resources, energy and will of the nation towards battling the terrible virus and direct our war-like efforts towards the multitudinous long-term effects of hardship and, inevitably, homelessness.

We are fighting a war to keep homelessness from hitting and destroying the next generation, and the generation after; as well as the generation we are living through. Like my Bill, which is passing through Parliament, it’s about protecting the interests of our future generations.

Tomorrow starts today. And we must act now to keep people in their homes and allow them space to think about future generations. 


Lord Bird is a crossbench peer. 

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