Cost of placing homeless people in B&Bs has risen by more than £20m

Home for Denise and her children is one cramped room in a bed and breakfast.

Most of the space is taken up by the three beds they share between the six of them – the floor is littered with toys and clothes.

They have a small en suite bathroom but there is limited access to a tiny kitchen which is shared with around 30 other people.

They have been living like this for more than five months.

This is the reality of life for thousands of people forced to live in bed and breakfasts after finding themselves homeless and on long waiting lists for council housing.

By law, families with children should not be housed in B&Bs for longer than six weeks, but when there is nowhere else for them to go, councils say they have no option but to flout the statutory limit.

We have changed Denise and her children’s names in order to protect their identities.

They ended up in a B&B in Birmingham after Denise left an abusive relationship.

Her daughter Rachel, 10, describes the room where they live.

“There are cockroaches crawling all over the wall and the bed is too small to share with my older sister,” she said.

She says she struggles to find space to do her homework, adding: “I put the paper on the wall and then I just write.

“Or on my knee, but sometimes it doesn’t work out because the pencil goes through the page,” she continued.

The children eat what they can. There’s a small fridge and a kettle in the room.

Rachel added: “The hotel give us milk in the morning and cereal boxes. But sometimes the milk’s expired.

“We used to eat outside, but we try to save money – so sometimes my mum cooks in the kitchen, but only when no one’s in there.”

As demand for housing solutions increases, so do the prices charged by some bed and breakfasts to councils, who are forced to pay up to put a roof over the heads of growing numbers of homeless people.

According to figures seen exclusively by Sky News, the amount paid by authorities in England has gone up by more than £20m in the last year.

Analysis by the Local Government Association (LGA) show councils spent £114,861,000 housing people in bed and breakfasts in the year up to March 2019, up from £93,306,000 the previous year.

The cost has been steadily rising annually and is now more than ten times the amount spent in the year up to March 2010.

Bed and breakfasts are supposed to be used only as emergency accommodation.

Yet the latest figures from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, show that in June 2019 there were 690 families with dependent or expected children who had been living in B&Bs for longer than the six-week limit.

They were among 7,110 households living in bed and breakfasts in England, of which 1,990 had or were expecting children.

Any money spent by councils on temporary accommodation means less can be invested in house building.

Speaking on behalf of councils, David Renard from the Local Government Association told Sky News that each individual case of homelessness is a “tragedy”.

He added: “We want to work as closely as we can with those families and individuals to give them stable and permanent places of accommodation.

“But increasingly, councils have had to make more use of bed and breakfast because the supply of social housing and affordable private rented housing is not there to the extent that we need it to be.”

He is calling on the government to work with councils, adding: “We do need government to work with us to be able to increase the amount of social housing that we can provide and also to change what’s called the local housing allowance back to where it used to be to the level of a third of the market rent that’s available.

“At the moment we’re finding a lot of families can’t afford private rent because the allowance level is not high enough.

“But also, we want to be building more social houses so that people can have permanent homes and pay social rents.”

Denise and her family have no idea how long they will be in their B&B.

Saidul Haque Saeed from the charity Citizens UK in Birmingham says theirs is far from being an isolated case.

He said: “The scale of homeless families like that of Denise stuck in B&Bs and temporary accommodation is a national crisis.

“Citizens UK member schools, faith and community groups, they tell us how this is a worrying issue affecting children’s well-being.

“We have found more families facing a life in B&Bs for months and sometimes, years on end.”

A Birmingham City Council spokesperson said: “We have been consistent on the housing crisis that affects not only Birmingham but the country as a whole.

“We have introduced a number of initiatives designed to reduce the number of people in emergency B&B accommodation, including the introduction of specialised temporary accommodation centres that support families in crisis.

“Our current B&B number is 335 and we will continue to make every effort to reduce this further.

“But the reality is that clear, significant, support backed by financial resources are needed from the government in terms of policies and funding that support the provision of social housing, addressing the true costs of developing new homes to counter those lost through the Right to Buy.”

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government told Sky News: “Since 2010, this government has delivered over 464,000 new affordable homes, including 114,000 social homes, with the social housing waiting list decreasing by 40% since 2012.

“Last year we delivered more homes than any year in the last 30 years and have committed to delivering a million more in this parliament.

“We abolished the council borrowing cap so councils can continue to build more social homes, giving families the chance to find somewhere that is safe and secure.”

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