Fears a perfect storm of issues will see surge in homeless across north Derbyshire

More than 14,000 Derbyshire households have lost their pandemic furlough payments – and council chiefs now fear a big spike in homelessness.

Friday, 1st October 2021, 2:12 pm

They say there is a perfect storm of compounding issues which could put people on the street.

Among these are the end of the eviction ban, the end of furlough on September 30 and the scrapping of the £20 Universal Credit uplift next week – along with wide-ranging financial issues households have battled during the pandemic.

Huw Bowen, chief executive at Chesterfield Borough Council, says the authority has already seen its housing waiting list more than double over the past 12 to 18 months to more than 2,400 households and was “growing rapidly”.

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Chesterfield Borough Council cheif executive Dr Huw Bowen said: "We are seeing rough sleepers return to the streets in Chesterfield.”

Meanwhile, Lee Pepper, housing options manager at North East Derbyshire District Council, said the number of home possession orders around the county spiked over the summer with the end of the eviction ban.

He said he expects a “rapid rise in potential homelessness through families affected by Covid, along with furlough, evictions, possessions and Universal Credit, saying there were still “lots of unknowns” in how this could turn out.

After 18 months, furlough support for thousands of staff around the county and city came to a close.

Most of these employees work in industries that have largely been unable to operate during the pandemic, or for significant periods of it.

Dr Bowen said: “We are seeing rough sleepers return to the streets in Chesterfield.”

He said there were 11 possession cases going through the Chesterfield courts every day

Dr Bowen also said grant funding from the Government to assist with homelessness works was dissipating, meaning the burden would fall on local council finances which have also been crippled by the pandemic.

He said “exemplary work” from Derbyshire’s district and borough councils and health and social care services – working together through the pandemic on homelessness – must be maintained.

Dr Bowen said he shared the concerns raised by Mr Pepper in a report to the county’s health and wellbeing board meeting, which says: “Homelessness is now increasing in new forms due to the economic downturn caused by the pandemic.

“Over 14,000 households in Derbyshire have been furloughed and this support ends in October 2021.

“In addition, significant numbers are still claiming Universal Credit, with the £20 top up also ending at the same time.

“Courts have been holding extended sessions to deal with the number of possession cases since the end of May 2021.

“All Derbyshire councils are reporting large increases in the numbers of possession cases from the private rented sector – assured shorthold tenancies – being received, with some authorities reporting increases of 50 per cent and more in July 2021 compared to June 2021.”

Mr Pepper said in this week’s health and wellbeing meeting, hosted by the county council, that the makeshift homelessness centre at the Mount Cook Adventure Centre in Middleton, near Wirksworth saw 91 people assisted.

The temporary £20 uplift to Universal Credit payments brought in during the pandemic is set to end on October 6, with the final receipt of funds depending on when those eligible usually receive their payments.

Citizens Advice fears a third of claimants will end up in debt as a result of the top-up being scrapped.