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NEW PROTECTION AND SUPPORT FOR HOMELESS FAMILIES

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The government intends to outlaw the use of bed and breakfast hotels...
The government intends to outlaw the use of bed and breakfast hotels

for homeless families except in emergencies, by strengthening

homeless legislation, the minister responsible for tackling

homelessness, Barbara Roche announced today.

The minister outlined the plan as part of a package of new measures

intended to offer more protection and support for homeless families

with children. Speaking at a seminar on child poverty and housing,

Mrs Roche also said the government is committed to improving the

quality of all temporary accommodation and that it will spend over

£350,000 on new services to support homeless families whilst they are

living in temporary accommodation, and help them resettle into

permanent housing. This funding will also support groundbreaking new

research to assess the impact of temporary accommodation on health

and education. This will be complimented by a project to evaluate

different models of family support to establish good practice.

Barbara Roche said:

'We have to help homeless families more effectively; not only to give

them and their children a better future but because of the cost to

the wider community and public services.

'It is fundamental to the government's approach to homelessness that

in addition to taking action that stops children growing up in B&B

hotels and other forms of unsuitable accommodation, we also seek to

understand more about the people who find themselves homeless and

caught up in a cycle of despair.' There are around 81,000 households

living in temporary accommodation in England. Two thirds of homeless

households contain children or a pregnant woman and it is estimated

that there are at least 90,000 children living in temporary

accommodation. Under current homelessness legislation,

unintentionally homeless families with children are given priority

need and found temporary accommodation until a settled home becomes

available. However during this time, there is evidence to show the

negative impact of homelessness on children, especially in relation

to their health, welfare and education. These children will often be

the most vulnerable in society and that means they need to receive

effective services to help give them opportunities to improve their

quality of life

The Homelessness Directorate, in the ODPM, is spending£125m this year to help local

authorities develop new schemes that will prevent homelessness and

tackle its underlying causes. These include mediation services for

family and couples in relationship difficulties; additional support

for women fleeing domestic violence; rent deposit guarantee schemes

to help homeless people find housing in the private sector; court and

landlord advice services to reduce evictions; and debt and welfare

counselling to help people sustain their tenancies. Louise Casey,

head of the Homelessness Directorate, added:

'It is important that we ensure that homeless families never have to

live in squalid conditions. Not only because the cost to the children

is too high in terms of their health, welfare and education but also

because the tax payer should not be paying for unsuitable

accommodation.'

Notes

1. The£350,000 will be used to fund projects including Shelter to

replicate their successful Homeless to Home scheme; the Community

Practitioners and Health Visitors Association to promote the health

needs of homeless families with health practitioners; and the Field

Lane Foundation to provide day centre-based support services to

homeless families in temporary accommodation in London.

2. Latest statistics relating to homelessness in England indicate

that at June 2002 around 81,000 households are in temporary

accommodation, 6,500 families with children live in B&B hotels, and

600 people sleep rough on any one night.

3. The government will be consulting in the new year on options for

strengthening the homelessness legislation by Order and through

statutory guidance so that:

- it will not be regarded as suitable under the homelessness

legislation for homeless families with children to be placed in B&B

hotels, except in emergencies and even then for no more than 6

weeks;

- arrangements should be in place to ensure that all households

placed in temporary accommodation by local authorities under the

legislation have access to relevant health, education and social

services;

- all temporary accommodation used by local authorities to

accommodate homeless households under the legislation meets minimum

standards;

- additional standards should apply to B&B hotels used by local

authorities to accommodate households under the homelessness

legislation where there are shared facilities.

4. The last major study of temporary accommodation and homelessness

was in 1987 and focussed on the physical aspects of the

accommodation. The new study will focus much more on the personal

factors and will serve to highlight the support needs of homeless

families that should be included in local homelessness strategies,

and to emphasise the wider education, health and other social

benefits of approaches that minimise the use of temporary

accommodation.

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