In Brief

Government criticised over rise in homelessness

National Audit Office report says welfare reform is likely driver behind issue

The number of homeless in the UK has climbed sharply over the past six years, with the government facing criticism over its "light touch" approach to the problem, according to a National Audit Office (NAO) report.

The report says a snapshot overnight count of people sleeping rough found 4,134 people, an increase of 143% since the Conservatives took power.

Additionally, there has been a 60% increase in the number of homeless families, affecting 120,540 children, the NAO says.

The report points to government cutbacks to the Local Housing Allowance (LHA), designed to help tenants meet the cost of private rents, as a factor behind the rise.

“LHA support has fallen behind rent levels in many areas, forcing tenants to cover an average rent shortfall of £50 a week in London and £26 a week elsewhere,” The Guardian says.

“Welfare reforms announced by the government in 2015 included a four-year freeze to housing benefit - which was implemented in April 2016,” the BBC says.

Auditor General Sir Amyas Morse said the Department for Work and Pensions had not properly considered the potential impact of the benefit changes.

“It is difficult to understand why the department persisted with its light touch approach in the face of such a visibly growing problem,” Morse said.

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