More than 100 families faced homelessness in just three months

Housing. Picture: Getty Images

Housing. Picture: Getty Images - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

More than 100 East Devon families at risk of homelessness needed help in the run up to last Christmas, new figures reveal.

Following the introduction of the Homelessness Reduction Act in 2017, councils in England must provide support to eligible homeless households, as well as those at risk of becoming homeless within 56 days.

Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government data shows there were 109 households which needed support after applying for help from East Devon District Council between October and December, including 30 families with children.

Of these, 85 were at risk of homelessness, meaning the council had to work with them to prevent them losing their home.

The remaining 24 were already homeless and the council was tasked with helping them to secure accommodation for a period of at least six months.

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The households owed support by EDDC included:

- 79 contained a person with at least one high need - 25 people had an illness or physical disability, 39 had a mental health condition, two a learning disability and two were elderly.

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- 23 were headed by a single mother and three by a single father.

- 12 were at risk of homelessness because of so-called no-fault evictions, after their landlord issued them with a soon-to-be banned Section 21 notice.

- 12 lost their last home because of domestic abuse.

- One was sleeping rough at the time they applied for help from the council.

- 31 were headed by a person aged 35 to 44 - the most common age group.

Housing charity Shelter has warned that councils are struggling to cope with the volume of people needing support amid a national 'housing emergency'.

One in five homeless or at risk households in East Devon lost their last secure home because their assured shorthold tenancy - the most common type of private rental contract - ended.

There were also six households made homeless because their social tenancy came to an end while one came from supported housing, which could include refugees or housing for elderly or disabled people.

Of the social tenants, five lost their homes because they were behind on their rent.

An East Devon District Council spokesman said: "East Devon have seen a rise in homelessness, including numbers of rough sleepers and households requiring temporary accommodation, in line with the national picture.

"This increase has been intensified by the lack of availability of suitable accommodation options available to people due to factors including reductions in funding of supported accommodation projects, austerity measures and rises in the rent levels in the private sector leading to affordability issues. These factors all contribute towards added pressure on social housing which is already in short supply whilst facing high levels of demand.

"In order to meet this rise in demand, and to address the additional responsibilities brought in through the Homelessness Reduction Act, changes have been made to the service with the responsibility of assisting people who are homeless or threatened with homelessness."

Measures include:

- The creation of a new Homelessness Strategy that aims to address the challenges ahead over the next five years.

- The provision of two full time drop-in services within the district for people facing homelessness.

- The restructure of the service to bring in specialist posts, with the aim of freeing up the Housing Officers to deal with their growing homeless caseloads.

- Adding new staff to the service with successful bids to central government for additional resources to assist rough sleepers.

- The implementation of a new IT system used to manage homeless applications.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said: "Recent figures show encouraging signs that the Homelessness Reduction Act is making a real difference in providing vulnerable people with the support they need, and at an earlier stage.

"But we know there is more to do, which is why we're investing £1.2bn to tackle homelessness, and empowering councils to build more council homes to ensure everyone has a safe and secure home to call their own."

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