Catholic housing agency wins bed and breakfast battle

 The Catholic Housing Aid Society (CHAS) has welcomed the government's decision to ban the use of Bed and Breakfast accommodation for the homeless. The Government recently announced that it intends to outlaw the use of Bed and Breakfast hotels for homeless families except in emergencies, by strengthening homelessness legislation. CHAS has been lobbying for the abolition of the Bed and Breakfast provision for many years. A new initiative launched on Homelessness Sunday last January by the Homelessness Sunday Partnership which includes CHAS, the Church National Housing Coalition and the Scottish Churches Housing Agency. "We are delighted to hear the announcement that the use of Bed and Breakfast for homeless families with children is to be outlawed except in emergencies, and then for no more than six weeks," said Robina Rafferty, Director of the Catholic Housing Aid Society. "It is an affront to human dignity that we have allowed this practice to go on for so long. It undermines family life, and causes serious harm to the education, health and development of children. It is also a total waste of taxpayers' money." She continued: "That is why CHAS and all the churches have been campaigning for so long for Bed and Breakfast to be abolished. We are also pleased that the Government is planning to create new services to support homeless families while they are living in temporary accommodation, and to help them resettle into permanent accommodation. Vulnerable children traumatised by the experience of losing their family home, and usually moving away from friends and school as well, need support to put their experiences behind them." There are around 81,000 households living in temporary accommodation in England. Two thirds of homeless households contain children or a pregnant woman and it is estimated that there are at least 90,000 children living in temporary accommodation. Announcing the decision, the Social Exclusion minister Barbara Roche said that the Government is committed to improving the quality of all temporary accommodation and that it will spend over 350,000 on new services to support homeless families whilst they are living in temporary accommodation, and help them resettle into permanent housing. "This funding will also support groundbreaking new research to assess the impact of temporary accommodation on health and education. This will be complimented by a project to evaluate different models of family support to establish good practice," said Roche. The new CHAS campaign, launching on Homelessness Sunday (26 January) is to target the crisis in housing benefit that sees many people thrown into poverty due to maladministration at local level. The government target for processing housing benefit claims is 36 days but 75 per cent of local authorities take more than six weeks to complete the task. The worst leave claimants waiting six months or longer for benefit, according to CHAS. "While this is a real problem, we think the government should have the welfare of often vulnerable citizens as its priority, by dealing with the long delays and errors which result in many landlords evicting families for no reason other than that housing benefit has not been paid," said Rafferty.

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