End of government protection measures
Kent's most vulnerable people pushed closer to homelessness
As the government withdraws financial protection for those impacted by the pandemic, we’re using World Homeless Day to warn of an impending crisis.
Thousands of homeless and vulnerable people in Kent are at breaking point. More than 9,300 households could be at risk of homelessness this winter.
Protections they have relied on – the furlough scheme, increased Universal Credit payments and a ban on evictions – have all ended.
It won’t take long for things to spiral out of control for those who are struggling to get by.
People are facing the worst of times and we're preparing to do everything we can. But it shouldn't have to be like this.
World Homeless Day is on 10 October so join our cause and be part of the movement for change. Sign up today.
Why are more people facing homelessness?
Universal Credit: end of the £20 uplift
When the pandemic began, Universal Credit payments were increased by £20 per week. It’s been a lifeline for millions of struggling households.
There has been a sharp rise in the number of people in Kent relying on these payments. In May of this year, 92,000 were receiving Universal Credit.
Despite widespread warnings, the government has now reduced payments to pre-pandemic levels, potentially forcing many thousands of people into poverty.
Protections for renters are ending
Evictions were banned during the pandemic to ensure that struggling renters could not be forced out of their homes. This is no longer the case.
People who have fallen behind with rent payments because they lost jobs and income during the pandemic can now be evicted.
By the end of the year, we estimate that more than 9,300 households in Kent will be in rent arrears. If someone has built up more than two month’s arrears, landlords can apply for a court order to evict them from their home with just two weeks' notice.
The furlough scheme – which helped employers pay the wages of staff unable to work during the pandemic – has ended.
Redundancies are inevitable and many thousands of people will be left without a safety net if they lose their job.
Rents continue to rise as wages fall
The cost of rent is rocketing, despite the economic uncertainty facing so many people.
In Kent the cost is higher than many other parts of England.
Between April 2020 and March 2021, the average monthly private rent for a two-bed property in Kent was £830. For England in general, it was £730.
To make matters worse, people in Kent face even greater challenges because their wages are not keeping up with the cost of renting. In six local authorities (Ashford, Folkestone & Hythe, Gravesham, Maidstone, Swale and Thanet), resident earnings are below the national average.
More people are turning to homelessness services
Our homelessness services are seeing a dramatic increase in demand. In the first half of this year, the number of people referred to us for help increased by 64%, compared to pre-Covid levels.
Being unable to continue staying with family or friends is currently the largest cause of homelessness in England. Now that protections for renters have ended, we expect evictions to overtake relationship breakdown as the primary cause of homelessness.
People need more intensive support
People we support often have very complex needs. The pandemic has amplified mental health issues many were already facing.
In the first half of this year, we’ve seen twice as many people with high mental health needs compared to the same period in 2019. Clients with high drug and alcohol use – often used as coping mechanisms – have almost doubled.
Future funding remains uncertain
The pressure on services is growing but councils (which fund some Porchlight services) are having to make tough decisions about how money will be spent in the future.
We’ve called for Kent County Council to protect services for vulnerable people, but we also know that over-stretched councils need to be properly funded.
The government must take urgent action so that people sleeping rough get rapid support and there’s better financial help for people struggling to afford their housing costs.
And we need long-term investment in local services so that councils, health and housing providers can continue to work together to tackle the inequalities that have been intensified by the pandemic.
Homelessness can be solved. Help make World Homeless Day, 10 October, more than just a day.
Sign your name below, join the movement to end homelessness in Kent. Ask friends and family too.