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Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

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‘Disappeared’ families failed

February 09 2014
Councils urged to be more “transparent” about the homeless families

Councils have been urged to be more “transparent” about the homeless families who have been moved away from their London boroughs into cheaper areas.

The call comes after claims that vulnerable families may not have received the right support because councils in the areas they moved to were not informed of their placements.

In total, 789 households were moved out of the capital by their local authority between June 2012 and June 2013, according to an unpublished report by umbrella body London Councils. This is double the rate of the previous year. Many of these families were relocated hundreds of miles away, including to Birmingham, Manchester and Swansea.

But although councils must legally tell the destination local authorities about any such placements, a survey by Inside Housing, an industry newspaper, showed that councils are not always being told. The stats showed Dartford received 205 homeless families during the 2012/13 financial year, but the council claims it had no knowledge of any homeless families housed in its area by other authorities. Meanwhile, Slough received 94 homeless households but the council said it received just two notifications of placements.

Now London Councils have issued an advice note saying that there must be “open and transparent information sharing between officers in different authorities when homeless households are placed out of London”.

Laura Johnson, director of housing at the borough of Kensington and Chelsea and chair of the London Directors’ Steering Group, said: "If we have to place households outside London, this can be for a number of reasons relating to recent welfare reforms, rising property prices and rents as well as an increasing shortage of affordable temporary accommodation.

"Despite these factors, the number placed elsewhere is a small fraction of the 42,000 households in temporary accommodation in London. "

Richard Davies, lead councillor for housing at Reading Council, which was not informed of the 40 households placed in its area in the 2012/13 financial year, said: "If there was a decent protocol of giving the receiving authority information about what their [household’s] situation is and what council services they’re likely to need, I think that would be really helpful."