Review into homeless care ordered

AN urgent review has been ordered to help the district cope with an increasing number of residents who could be faced with losing their homes.

Changes in the welfare system and the difficult economic climate are expected to cause an increase in the number of people becoming homeless and the district council has moved to review how it would cope with an influx of new cases.

Last year, the authority received more than 1700 of requests for help, re-housed more than 200 families, supported 26 families threatened by domestic violence and delivered 147 new affordable housing units.

Council leader Peter Moakes, said: “Our housing service is a vital department of the council. They work very hard to help many people and families across the district to keep roofs over the heads of those who are often in a desperate situation.

“The issue we have over the next few years is delivering these services with an increasing pressure on our budgets.

“In East Cambridgeshire, we have always tried to tackle homelessness through preventative measures to ensure people have somewhere to live. However, we face an increasing number of obstacles due partly to the policies of the various governments of the last 30 years and partly with the very difficult economic climate which still exists.”

Helping the homeless is part of the council’s statutory role but the authority says that numerous changes to the local housing market over the last three years coupled with the recession have made life increasingly difficult for housing services.

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In December, the council’s head of housing Jane Hollingworth, said “alarm bells” were ringing at the council’s offices after the Government slashed rates at which low earners can claim Local Housing Allowance (LHA).

Ms Hollingworth said: “There is going to be increased homelessness.

“People are going to be put under more pressure by this because a lot of private sector tenancies are not going to be available.”

Ms Hollingworth added that she expected struggling residents in Cambridge to look to Ely as a more affordable place to live.

The council’s review will take place over the next few months with a final improvement plan to be considered in February 2012.