Rishi requests detailed report from Big Issue founder on homeless ‘tsunami’
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Lord Bird has revealed that in a recent exchange the Chancellor asked him to provide data which shows how a quarter of a million people are facing eviction as they cannot pay their rent or mortgage due to the “perfect storm” of Covid job losses, rising living costs and the end of furlough and of the eviction ban.
The Sunday Express is campaigning with the Big Issue to prevent mass homelessness.
The charity says 225,000 people are on the brink of losing their homes. If they are added to the 274,000 already homeless, then nearly half a million people would be in temporary accommodation or sleeping rough. Lord
Bird warned the Chancellor that the Government’s levelling-up agenda will end up being replaced by “levelling-down” unless measures are taken to help those worst affected by the crisis.
He also cautioned that “the mathematics of social collapse thrown up by Covid is enormous”.
He recently met the Mr Sunak at a social event and told him about the campaign.
The Chancellor asked for more details and it is now hoped he will develop a support package.
Big Issue research shows the cost of preventing homelessness now is far lower than paying for the cost of homelessness – which includes expensive bed and breakfast hotels for families along with social care costs.
Its research found there is currently £360million in rent arrears. However, without action the homelessness “disaster” could cost more than £2billion.
Our Let’s Save Their Homes campaign in collaboration with The Big Issue calls for the Government to pay off those arrears and help those unable to pay their rent or mortgage due to Covid.
We also want to end no-fault evictions which see people kicked out at short notice and cause, as well as investment in supporting people into jobs and training in sustainable industries.
Lord Bird, a cross-party peer, said: “I will be sending Rishi our report in the new year.
“This very much ties in with the Government’s levelling-up agenda. I want to avoid levelling down. Many of those affected are everyday families now struggling to make ends meet.
“People have lost jobs through Covid measures and have been unable to pay their rent or mortgage. Over 200,000 are now facing eviction.
“We have to support people out of eviction and keep them in their homes.
“We need to support them to get jobs and avoid levelling down.
“A Chancellor’s job is to make sure that he is spending every pound wisely, and the best value for money would be to prevent people into homelessness, which costs the Exchequer and ultimately the taxpayer far more.”
“When I met Rishi recently I was driven by a missionary zeal to explain that the mathematics of social collapse thrown up by Covid is enormous.
“I had to warn him about a tsunami of people facing the threat of homelessness this Christmas as a result of the Covid-19 crisis.
“In respect of the Government’s levelling-up agenda, we must avoid levelling down.
“The risks – and costs – of inaction are huge.
“Act now, on the right data, and we reckon the Government could save billions. Fail to prevent mass homelessness, and the Big Issue estimates the combined cost to local services and prevention could be at least £2.6billion if 225,000 renters currently in arrears lose their homes.”
He added: “Mr Sunak pointed to his departwithout ment’s commitment of £65million to support vulnerable renters in arrears due to the pandemic.
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“That is not enough, I said. To my gratitude, he was open to hearing my call, and requested any data and evidence that would offer a greater insight into the scale of need.
“While the Government’s ability to act swiftly and decisively in the face of this challenge is welcome, we know this financial commitment barely scratches the surface of the £360million in rent arrears estimated to have been built up in the private rented sector during the pandemic.
“People have lost jobs through Covid measures and have been unable to pay their rent or mortgage – 225,000 people are on the brink of losing their homes.
“We have to support people out of eviction, keep them in their homes and help them find jobs in sustainable industries.”
He said he was sceptical that the existing support is sufficient and questioned how ministers arrived at the £65million figure.
Lord Bird continued: “My team is working with local authorities, data experts and polfalling icy wonks to uncover the scale of the problem.We will show Sunak the data so that he can show us the money.
“For thousands facing rent arrears, the threat of eviction looms over them – the risk of homelessness is an immediate and stark reality.
“We urgently need the Government to work with us to understand the scale of the risk.
“This is no ordinary policy problem: it’s about people’s safety, security and ability to thrive and has a significant cost over the short and long term.”
One in six homeless households are in emergency B&Bs and hostels, where gross overcrowding is rife, a recent study found.
The use of such B&Bs rose by 371 percent in the past decade.
Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, added: “Over a quarter of a million people – half of them children – are homeless and stuck in temporary accommodation. This should shame us all.
“Many people will spend Christmas in grim, dangerous places, cut off from loved ones and faced with a daily struggle to eat or keep clean.”
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