Evictions reach new high as 19,000 private renters forced onto streets in just one year

Homelessness crisis reaches new high as 19,000 private renters forced onto streets in just one year

‘Figures are a heartbreaking reminder of the devastating impact our drastic shortage of affordable homes is having,’ says chief executive of Shelter
Harriet Agerholm @HarrietAgerholm 16 hours  ago

Just under 43,000 families made homeless across all sectors in the last year Getty
The number of private renters becoming homeless is at its highest level in England since records began.
Almost 19,000 households became homeless after being evicted by a private landlord in the last year, a 200 per cent increase compared to five years ago and the highest number on record.
Across all the sectors, just under 43,000 families were accepted as homeless by their local council in the last year � a rise of 35 per cent from five years ago.
According to official statistics released by the Department for Communities and Local Government, the end of an assured shorthold tenancy – the most common form of rental agreement – has become an increasingly common reason for becoming homeless.
The spiralling costs of housing coupled with cuts to welfare spending have been blamed for the steep rise.
English councils dealt with 200,930 requests for help from people on the verge of homelessness in the last year.
Jon Sparkes, head of homelessness charity, Crisis, said: �We need a change in the law to prevent more people from losing their home and to make sure all homeless people can get the help they need, while councils need the funding to make this work.
�Prevention has already been shown to work in Wales, where it has dramatically reduced the need for people to be re-housed.�
A bill put forward by Bill Blackman MP to address the problem will have it’s second reading in late October  It proposes a new duty for all local authorities to take action on behalf of anyone threatened with homelessness within the next 56 days, regardless of what their priority status is.
Responding to the figures, chief executive of homelessness organisation Shelter Campbell Robb said: �These figures are a heartbreaking reminder of the devastating impact our drastic shortage of affordable homes is having.
�Every day we hear from families struggling to keep their heads above water when faced with the double blow of welfare cuts and expensive, unstable private renting, with far too many ultimately losing the battle to stay in their home.
�On top of this, stripped back budgets and a drought of affordable homes are making it increasingly difficult for overburdened councils to find homeless families anywhere suitable to live.”

Neighbours form human chain around Bristol mum’s house to stop eviction

Simon Robb for Metro.co.uk Thursday 22 Sep 2016 2:21 pm
A woman facing ‘revenge eviction’ has been given a lifeline after her neighbours gathered to form a human chain around her home.
Nimo Abdullahi, 39, claimed her landlord tried to kick her and her five children out of their home after she complained about the rising damp.

This is the moment kindhearted neighbours in Easton, Bristol, formed a human chain around a mum's house - to stop her being kicked out in a 'revenge eviction'. See SWNS story SWSAVE; Nimo Abdullahi, 39, was told she and her family would be thrown out of their home of 12 years after she complained to her landlord about damp. But in a bid to protect the mum-of-five from a 'revenge eviction', residents and campaigners turned out to stop it happening. Around 30 people stood side by side, arms linked, to build a wall of bodies in front of the privately-rented property in Easton, Bristol. All morning, more neighbours joined the blockade - with a newlywed couple living opposite the family cutting up their wedding cake to keep the protesters sustained. When bailiffs turned up at 11am on Tuesday, they weren't able to get inside.
This is the moment kindhearted neighbours in Easton, Bristol, formed a human chain around a mum’s house – to stop her being kicked out in a ‘revenge eviction’. See SWNS story SWSAVE; Nimo Abdullahi, 39, was told she and her family would be thrown out of their home of 12 years after she complained to her landlord about damp. But in a bid to protect the mum-of-five from a ‘revenge eviction’, residents and campaigners turned out to stop it happening. Around 30 people stood side by side, arms linked, to build a wall of bodies in front of the privately-rented property in Easton, Bristol. All morning, more neighbours joined the blockade – with a newlywed couple living opposite the family cutting up their wedding cake to keep the protesters sustained. When bailiffs turned up at 11am on Tuesday, they weren’t able to get inside.

But neighbours and campaigners turned out in force to stop bailiffs from forcing the family out of their home in Easton, Bristol.
A newlywed couple living opposite even cut up their wedding cake for all the protesters.
When the bailiffs arrived on Tuesday morning, they were unable to get past the 30 protesters who stood strong.
Nimo claimed the landlord tried to evict them numerous times before and even threatened to get the police to do the job.
She said: ‘It has a big problem with damp. This is bad for us, because my children have asthma and it is not a good place.
‘Until recently, the carpets everywhere were very old and dirty and we would ask the landlord to improve things, but he was difficult.
‘Many times I asked him, and a lot of times he would threaten us.’
Neighbour Jenny Ross said: ‘We don’t want people in our community treated like this. It’s a revenge eviction and people deserve decent rented accommodations.’
Another neighbour, Kirsten Parton, added: ‘I’m here because of the way she’s been treated by her landlord, it is simply not on.
‘She and her family are part of the community and have been here for quite some time.’
Nimo is being helped by Acorn, a local grass roots movement which fights for renters’ rights.
Efforts have been made to get in touch with the landlord.

BURIED: UN slams Tories over UK human rights abuses

JUNE 28TH, 2016 Steve Topple STEVE TOPPLE UK

BURIED: UN slams Tories over UK human rights abuses

While the country is entrenched in the mire of the EU referendum fallout, the Tories have just been slammed by the United Nations (UN) – for human rights abuses.

But not abroad. Here, in the UK.

As The Canary previously reported, on the 15 and 16 June the UN Human Rights committee on economic, social and cultural affairs publicly reported its questioning of the Tories, after more than two years of evidence-gathering concerning the impact of their policies on society.

report was submitted by the UK government, from which the final conclusions and recommendations, which were released on Monday night, have been drawn. And the UN pulls no punches in its assessment.

Failed policies

The criticisms are overarching, and in some cases staggering – covering nearly every area of government policy. It appears the UN have three levels of disdain: “regret”, “concerned” and “seriously or deeply concerned” – and the latter, worryingly, comes up relating to two specific areas.

The committee spoke at length about asylum seekers; specifically, that our government is failing them “due to restrictions in accessing employment and the insufficient level of support provided”. It goes further and says that they are, basically, being denied the health care that they are entitled to under international law. The UN also slams the government over its treatment of migrant workers, in terms of exploitation, low pay and health care access – specifically citing the fact the Tories ignored its last set of recommendations.

The government comes under criticism for its sales of weapons to foreign countries and lack of legislation surrounding this. A pertinent issue at present, with the Tories coming under increasing pressure to block arms sales to Saudi Arabia, who are currently accused of committing war crimes in Yemen.

The UN is also critical of the practices surrounding government-backed private companies’ conduct in foreign countries. This specifically relates to an investigation by Global Justice Now, surrounding the Department for International Development ploughing money into private education companies in Uganda and Kenya – at the cost of their free education systems. It seems the Tories not only want a profit from the UK’s schools, they want it from other countries’ schools as well.

There were numerous other areas in which the Tories came under fire: their failure to tackle tax avoidance; the 2016 Trade Union Act and blacklisting of workers; the reductions in the corporate tax rate; the decimation of the legal aid system; the failure to introduce the 2010 Equality Act in Northern Ireland and the continued illegality of abortion; the gender pay gap; the under-funding of mental health services; worsening of social care for the elderly; the lowly minimum wage; violence against women, and the lack of female representation in high-profile public roles.

However, the most damning indictments and truly staggering ones were surrounding austerity, unemployment, living standards and welfare reforms. And the majority of the barrage of criticisms were aimed at the impact these had on the vulnerable and the disabled.

Forgetting the most vulnerable

In short, criticisms were fired at the Tories over:

  • the number of self-employed, part-time and zero hours contracts jobs, and the effect on marginalised people.
  • the housing crisis in the UK, including the lack of social housing, sky-high rental prices and rogue landlords.
  • the “exceptionally high” levels of homelessness and the Conservatives’ inadequate response to this.
  • the government’s record on education and failure to address inequality affecting pupils attainment levels.
  • a failure to address food poverty and the heavy reliance by millions on food banks.
  • the rising levels of poverty among marginalised groups, and the government’s failure to tackle child poverty.

But perhaps the two most astonishing sections were those dedicated to what the UN described itself as having “seriously” and “deeply” concerned views on – the effects of austerity, and welfare reforms on the disabled and most vulnerable in society.

The UN said of the Conservatives’ austerity measures:

the Committee is seriously concerned about the disproportionate adverse impact that austerity measures, introduced since 2010, are having on […] disadvantaged and marginalized individuals and groups. The Committee is concerned that the State party has not undertaken a comprehensive assessment of the cumulative impact of such measures […] in a way that is recognized by civil society and national independent monitoring mechanisms.

Translated? The UN is saying that the government has forced through austerity measures without bothering to think or care how they would affect the poor, the disabled and the vulnerable – and that in doing so, they have flouted agreed international standards. The government had already been warned once by the UN in 2012 regarding this – but the Tories chose to ignore it. They were told that (regarding austerity):

such measures must be temporary, necessary, proportionate, and not discriminatory and must not disproportionately affect the rights of disadvantaged and marginalized individuals and groups and respect the core content of rights.

The UN said the government now must review all austerity measures since 2010 and the impact they have had on the marginalised groups they refer to.

However, the severest criticisms were of the 2012 Welfare Reform Act and the Welfare Reform and Work Act of 2016 – and the language and recommendations from the UN were unprecedented.

Unparalleled human rights criticisms

In no uncertain terms, the UN said that it was:

deeply concerned about the various changes in the entitlements to, and cuts in, social benefits, introduced [in the two acts] such as the reduction of the household benefit cap, the […] spare-room subsidy (bedroom tax), the four year freeze on certain benefits and the reduction in child tax credits. The Committee is particularly concerned about the adverse impact on […] disadvantaged and marginalized individuals and groups, including women, children, persons with disabilities, low-income families and families with two or more children. The Committee also is concerned about the extent to which the State party has made use of sanctions in relation to social security benefits and the absence of due process and access to justice for those affected by the use of sanctions.

This is exceptionally strong language from the UN. Having compared the report on the UK to that of Angola, nowhere in Angola’s does the phrase “deeply/seriously concerned” appear.

Nor does it in the reports for Burkina Faso, France, Sweden or Macedonia. The only report that ours is comparable to is that of Honduras – a country with one of the highest murder rates in the world, and one which is subject to tourist travel warnings from both the US and the UK.

The recommendations from the UN are even more far-reaching.

It says the government should:

restore the link between the rates of state benefits and the costs of living and guarantee that all social benefits provide a level of benefits sufficient to ensure an adequate standard of living, including access to health care, adequate housing and food; Review the use of sanctions in relation to social security benefits and ensure that they are used proportionately and are subject to prompt and independent dispute resolution mechanisms.

But the most staggering part is that it says, without hesitation, that the government needs toreverse all benefit cuts that were introduced in both the 2012 and 2016 acts. It also stipulates that it expects the government to provide “disaggregated data” on the impact of the welfare reforms, specifically in marginalised groups.

Sadly, there is an inherent flaw with everything that the UN has stipulated – none of it is legally binding.

The UN state in their report that they are “disappointed” that this, and previous, governments have not taken the “covenant” (agreement & rules) of the committee and written them into domestic law. It urges the government “to fully incorporate the covenant rights into its domestic legal order and ensure that victims of violations of economic, social and cultural rights have full access to effective legal remedies”. That is, if a person feels that the government has breached its human rights under the UN’s covenant – it can take them to court.

The likelihood of this government, or any future one for that matter, adopting the UN’s rule is slim to say the least. But it is sorely needed.

Broken Britain? Again?

Speaking to The Canary, Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) said:

The response and recommendations of the report provide a damning declaration of the catalogue of the removal of rights that the Tories have imposed in their heartless regime. The report is to be welcomed for its forthright language and its recommendations. It contains everything that DPAC and campaigners have pointed out time and time again. For example, the call for a cumulative assessment of the cuts, the withdrawal of legal aid cuts, the targeting of funds to alleviate increasing poverty, reversal of welfare reform cuts, linking of cost of living to social security payments and a review of sanction procedures. If this report were a political party, it would win the next election. Labour – keep your elected leader and take note.

The report is one of the most damning assessments of a Western government in modern times. But to those who have been at the sharp end of recent policy changes, it will come as no surprise.

The government has to report back to the UN on certain aspects immediately, otherwise, the next review will take place in 2021.

Sadly, with a Tory government looking set to lurch even further to the right, and a Labour party in a state of implosion, things may well become even more precarious.

It seems, as always, that it will be down to us, the public, to try and force meaningful change.

And meaningful change must come – because already, for many, it is too late.

Get involved.

Support Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC)

Sign the petition to stop cuts to disabled people’s benefits

Revealed: Homeless charities ‘complicit’ in rough sleeper deportations


“Homeless individuals are sitting ducks for immigration enforcement”
By Natalie BloomerThursday, 15 September 2016

Two well-known homeless charities are accused of being ‘complicit’ with the deportation of foreign rough sleepers from the UK, Politics.co.uk can reveal.

Leading homelessness charities St Mungo’s and Thames Reach worked on a scheme to tackle ‘entrenched’ rough sleeping in London, which also involved immigration enforcement teams removing people from the country against their will.

Documents released by the Greater London Authority suggest the charities supported the ‘administrative removal’ of some foreign rough sleepers.

Administrative removals are deportations carried out against people who may have breached the conditions of their stay in the UK. Under government guidance announced this year, just being seen sleeping rough is considered a breach.

Campaigners today hit out at the charities for being ‘complicit’ with deportations.

“Homeless individuals are sitting ducks for immigration enforcement,” Rita Chadha, the chief executive of Ramfel, a refugee and migrant group, said.

“The fact that some homelessness charities can be complicit in such work is to our collective shame.

“People need to start questioning where their donations to some homeless charities are going. Are they really helping individuals or are they subsidising state-sanctioned enforcement?”

Former mayor of London Boris Johnson asked the homeless charities to work on a ‘payment by results’ basis, in order to help fulfil his promise to eradicate rough sleeping from London’s streets.

GLA documents reveal that in 2012, Thames Reach and St Mungo’s were commissioned to provide a number of services to around 800 so-called “entrenched” rough sleepers. But the programme, which was called a Social Impact Bond (SIB), also aimed to “reconnect” EU nationals with their home countries.

“Reconnections” are usually described as voluntary help for people who want to return home. But an update on the SIB in 2015, suggests they can also refer to forced removals from the country.

In the update, the GLA told the Investment & Performance Board (IPB) that “the number of reconnections abroad had fallen short of the providers’ targets” but that “with ten SIB clients having recently been referred to the Home Office for administrative removal, the number of reconnections in this year may well exceed the providers’ in-year target”.

The SIB is just one of several GLA projects to tackle rough sleeping in the capital. In the authority’s commissioning framework they make it clear that any charity wanting to provide their rough sleeping services would be expected to cooperate with immigration officials to remove EU nationals.

The framework comments on their “notable success” in working with Immigration Compliance Enforcement (ICE) teams, who liaise with “local authorities, service providers and the police” to deal with EU nationals who are neither employed or self-sufficient.

The document goes on to say: “This has involved testing a process of administrative removal for those individuals overstaying or not exercising their treaty rights. The GLA has supported this response and will continue to support similar initiatives in the future.”

Charities co-operated with scheme to remove ‘entrenched’ rough sleepers

Thames Reach’s contract to carry out the GLA’s ‘reconnection’ work ended earlier this year. However, in a response to the Communities and Local Government (CLG) Committee homeless inquiry they confirmed they support the practice of forced removals. They said:

“For different reasons there is a reluctance to take up this voluntary reconnection and for some, inevitably, an administrative removal carried out by the Immigration Compliance and Enforcement (ICE) service becomes necessary.”

They also suggested that a solution to reduce the flow of migrants to the UK who end up sleeping rough would be to increase “enforcement by ICE teams” where EU treaty obligations are not met.

Ramfel has raised concerns about the GLA’s reliance on charities to assess immigration cases and questioned whether their staff have the necessary skills and experience to provide accurate advice.

“We have seen a number of individuals who have felt pressured to leave the UK or have been told they have no alternative but to return home, when actually there are a variety of options available to them to remain here,” Chadha said.

St Mungo’s confirmed that they had worked with other agencies to ‘reconnect’ foreign rough sleepers. The director of the Street Outreach Service at St Mungo’s, Petra Salva said:

“St Mungo’s does not remove rough sleepers who are not exercising their treaty rights. Our work is with vulnerable people sleeping rough. We support people to move away from the streets, have a place to call home and to rebuild their lives. We consider the person and the best route off the street for them. That can involve working with other agencies, including reconnection within other London boroughs, to other parts of the UK or overseas.”

When contacted by Politics.co.uk, Thames Reach said that they were only currently engaged with assisting voluntary reconnections. A spokesperson said:

“We know that rough sleeping is dangerous and can kill.  At least 83 verified rough sleepers died last year in London. Where it is needed, we make sure that vulnerable people get the support they need to make a successful return home, and get the help they need when they get there.”