Increasing unemployment and cuts to mortgage help schemes have left many families across the country living on a ‘knife-edge’ according to research conducted by the homeless charity Shelter.
Rising costs and uncertainty about employment mean that families who once felt secure risk losing their homes if one of the household earners becomes unemployed.
The biggest increase in possession and eviction claims over the last year was recorded in the district of Richmondshire, North Yorkshire, up by 80.3%. This was closely followed by West Somerset with 65.7% more claims.
New rules to be introduced this month will dramatically reduce the amount of government financial help during the initial stages of someone becoming unemployed.
As ordinary families struggle to make ends meet, the coming month will see the removal of a vital protection measure designed to help people get back on their feet after losing their jobs. Under the coming changes, financial help available to renters during the first three months after they lose their job will be dramatically reduced.
As a Shelter and YouGov poll shows that over half of working families are already struggling or falling behind with their rent or mortgage, Shelter is warning that this could lead to an increase in homelessness.
The research identifies national hotspots where the risk is especially high: Manchester, Bristol, East London, Norwich and Newcastle have been identified as areas of serious concern.
One person feeling the strain is Abi Reilly, a teacher who lives in Reading with her husband and two small children. Abi said: ‘If either of us lost our jobs now, I don’t know how we’d afford to keep the roof over our heads. Looking for another job while dealing with the risk of losing our current home would be unbearable.’
The changes this autumn will mean that, in over a quarter of the country, a family paying a typical rent on an average three bedroom home would need to find an extra £100 a month or more as soon as they became unemployed, or risk losing their home.
Six in ten renters surveyed said that having to find up to £100 a month would make it impossible for them to pay their rent, while nearly two in five renters (38%) said that they could not afford to find any extra money at all.
Campbell Robb, Chief Executive of Shelter, said: ‘Every day, Shelter sees people worried about what would happen to their family and their home if they fell on hard times. This research highlights the frightening reality that as support continues to be cut, losing your job is increasingly likely to mean losing your home.
‘We want the government to keep the support available to families who face losing their homes. Finding another job is hard enough, but without a stable place to live it’s almost impossible to get back on your feet.’
Shelter is calling on the public today to ask Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith to save the measure at shelter.org.uk/safetynet.