Domestic abuse main reason for homelessness in Northumberland

Coun John Riddle, the cabinet member for housing.
Coun John Riddle, the cabinet member for housing.

The number of homeless applications in Northumberland fell by more than a quarter last year compared to the previous 12 months.

Monitoring shows that the number reduced from 378 in 2016-17 to 279 in 2017-18, a decrease of 26 per cent in the number of homeless applications taken.

A report to last week’s meeting of Northumberland County Council’s communities and place committee said that this reduction has been ‘been achieved by increased prevention work with people at risk of homelessness, supporting them to either remain in their current home or move to a new home in a planned way’.

The update follows the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 coming into force on April 1 this year, which ‘has placed a greater emphasis on intervention and acting quickly to provide advice and prevent homelessness’.

The figures show that the consistent main reason for homelessness in Northumberland remains domestic violence, however, there was a 30 per cent decrease from 2016-17 to 2017-18.

The next reason is loss of assured shorthold tenancy in the private rented sector, which saw an increase of 11 per cent last year.

Coun Brian Gallacher said: “It’s a lot of sad reading. I’m mindful of how many people slip under the radar on this.”

The report acknowledges that rough sleeping ‘is generally under-reported in Northumberland with only two identified during the 2017-18 national count reflecting that a number of hidden homeless and sofa surfers exist and cannot be easily identified’.

It adds: ‘Challenges to the service continue to be the increasing number of complex cases where applicants have multiple needs and dependencies, including mental-health issues, drug and alcohol dependencies, personality disorders and offending histories.’

The report goes on to say that the roll-out of Universal Credit in Northumberland ‘is likely to produce additional challenges to the service and on the current available resource’, explaining that council officers are working with the Department for Work and Pensions and housing providers to ensure that support will be available.

Coun John Riddle, the cabinet member for housing, highlighted that tackling homelessness is a Government priority, with the leader of the council recently being contacted by the relevant minister about further changes.

“I think everyone realises that in this day and age, it’s unacceptable and shameful,” he added.

Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service