Welfare reform continues to put thousands of Croydon families and individuals at risk of homelessness and place increasing pressure on council finances as administrative costs spiral, a cabinet report this week revealed.
Since April 2013, the introduction of universal credit, the benefit cap and the four-year freeze in benefits – including the Local Housing Allowance – has affected over 26,000 people living in Croydon, who have lost a total of over £31 million in benefits from April 2013 to April 2017.
As a result, the number of homeless households in temporary accommodation because they cannot afford their rent has risen significantly in the borough, almost doubling over the last four years.
In the report approved Monday night, Croydon Council outlined the extent of the crisis facing thousands of local families and individuals. Also, the budget implications as the local authority bears the escalating costs not only of financially supporting families in need but of tenant rent arrears and housing benefit debt.
“These are seriously challenging times for thousands of Croydon families and individuals affected by the benefit cap and the roll-out universal credit, who have lost or are at risk of losing their home because they cannot afford the rent.
“As a council we have been determined to provide help through our Gateway division. The first of its kind, Croydon’s Gateway seeks to proactively identify and help families and individuals affected by the welfare reforms and at risk of homelessness through a range of support services covering housing, benefits, debt management and social care assessment.
“From April 2016 our approach has helped more than 1,700 families avoid homelessness, over 2,000 people to become more financially independent, and more than 1,500 with personal budgeting support – a process Croydon developed with jobcentre plus which has since been rolled out nationally.
“We are reaching out to help more people at risk than ever before as we develop and expand the Gateway service. However, we remain extremely concerned about the worsening impact on families and individuals affected by these damaging cuts. The reduction of the benefit cap in November 2016 has further reduced the weekly budgets of some of our poorest residents, who were already struggling to make ends meet.
“We continue to lobby Government about the very real effects of welfare reform on families and individuals in our borough. We also continue to raise our concerns about the collective impact on local authorities, footing the bill for the costs of flawed government policy – with a particular focus on vulnerable customers that require support of nightly paid bed and breakfast, and the obvious issues of how these families are at increased risk in relation to the design and delivery of universal credit.”
Councillor Hamida Ali, cabinet member for communities, safety and justice
Croydon’s pioneering approach has led to Government recognition as a trailblazer authority for its determination to prevent homelessness. Last year the council was awarded £1.4million from the Rough Sleeping Grant and the Homeless Prevention Trailblazers funds, to help tackle rough sleeping and prevent homelessness among vulnerable families and individuals.