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Huge spike in families forced to live in B&B's hits London hardest

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New figures reflecting the impact of the Government’s housing benefit cuts show that London has been by far and away the hardest hit region in the country for poor families. More than half of all families consigned to live in bed and breakfast accommodation for longer than six weeks are based in the capital while the number of households designated as ‘homeless’ by London councils has rocketed by more than 25% when compared with the same period last year, taking the national total to 13,460.

More than 2,090 households with children were in B&B accommodation at the end of June, eight per cent up on a year before. Housing charity Shelter pointed out that this was the highest level since 2003.

Forcing people into B&B is of course supposed to be an emergency option, but 760 families have been in such temporary accommodation for longer than the six weeks specified as the limit. This in itself is a rise of 10 per cent from the same time last year.

Among them were 3,580 who had previously lived in private sector rather than council accommodation, up almost a third (32 per cent), and directly blamed by the charity Crisis on the Government's housing benefit cuts.

Chief executive Leslie Morphy said: "People who need the support of housing benefit to make ends meet have seen cut after cut in the amount they receive. We have been warning for years that this would drive up homelessness and today's figures could not be clearer.Thousands are becoming homeless because their housing benefit is no longer enough for them to be able to pay the rent."

Shelter said one family was now losing their home every 15 minutes, joining the attack on benefit cuts after commissioning research that found six in 10 were struggling to pay the rent or mortgage.

More than a third of families placed in B&B now ended up staying longer than six weeks, it said, sometimes sharing a single room with no cooking facilities and a shared bathroom.

Shelter’s Chief executive Campbell Robb said: "These figures are a wake-up call.

"Ordinary families are falling through the net and risk losing everything. We're worried about the thousands more just behind them who are living on a knife-edge, where all it takes is a sudden job loss or illness to tip a family into a downward spiral that can put their home at risk.

"A disappearing housing safety net means families will have little support left to help them get back on their feet. It's already hard enough to find a new job. Without a stable place to live, it's almost impossible.

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