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COUNCIL HOUSE EXCLUSIONS ATTACKED

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The charity for homeless people, Shelter, has claimed that growing numbers of poor families in need of social housi...
The charity for homeless people, Shelter, has claimed that growing numbers of poor families in need of social housing are being excluded from council house waiting lists 'on the basis of subjective judgments and unproven allegations'.

The Financial Times (p10) reports that government legislation allows councils to penalise nuisance behaviour by removing families from waiting lists found guilty of anti-social activity.

But the report by Shelter claims many families are being removed for other reasons, such as rent arrears - many of which amounted to less than£100, which could be caused by delays in the receipt of housing benefit.

The report, which is published today, reveals that almost four times as many people were excluded in 1997-98 than in the previous 12 months. Almost 33,000 households were excluded from waiting lists in 1996-98 in 44 local authorities.

Authorities in London, the north-east and the north-west have the highest number of exclusions. Chris Holmes, Shelter's director, said: 'These policies are creating social exclusion by denying people access to a stable home, often for no adequate reason.

'Exclusions should be used as a last resort and only after objective consideration of proven evidence. Guidance to local authorities should be amended so each case is judged on its merits and blanket bans stopped.

Meanwhile, the Guardian (p6) reports that figures compiled in Sunderland show that the number of young criminals being remanded into the care of the city council, has risen by 40% in six months.

This has prompted youth workers and the probabation service to claim that the new measures under the 1996 Housing Act to deal with 'nuisance neighbours' are responsible.

Now, unable to cope with the pressure in its own homes, where only 12 places are available, Sunderland City Council has been forced to send children elsewhere.

Some probation officers beleive that the experience in Sunderland raises doubts about the new measures from the home office. Barry Taylor, a senior probation officer, says he knows of several instances of children being put out of the family home to 'safeguard a tenancy'.

He added: 'Certainly some families are saying they may have to take drastic action although the courts are also taking a tougher approach. What happens is that quite a lot of people get [eviction] notices. Although very few are carried through, this causes a lot of anxiety and people get frightened.'

John Craggs, Sunderland's housing services business manager, said that although many families were warned about the behaviour of their children, the council had evicted only 20 families over the past year for anti-social behaviour.

Tenancy agreements had been modified to make parents more concerned about controlling criminal children. As a last resort, being remanded into the care of the local council may be the only resort open to a small minority

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