Food bank usage and homelessness has increased across England during the pandemic

Food bank usage and homelessness has increased across England during the pandemic (Photo: Shutterstock)

More than nine in 10 councils in England have reported an increase in the use of food banks during the pandemic.

A significant majority of councils in England have also seen demand for homelessness support, ‘family mediation’ services and financial support for council tax rise considerably.

A survey carried out by the District Councils’ Network (DCN) - which represents 187 councils in England covering around 40 per cent of the population - found that most district councils are anticipating a sharp rise in homelessness and rough sleeping, once the Government’s eviction ban runs out.

Seventy distinct councils responded to the survey, which also found that:

  • More than nine in 10 district councils have reported an increase in food bank usage
  • Almost two thirds have had to provide support and mediation in family disputes and crises during lockdown
  • 85 per cent have seen an increase in claims from homeless households for temporary accommodation
  • Despite the eviction ban, nearly half of districts have had to intervene in more disputes with landlords and tenants than before the pandemic
  • 93 per cent of district councils have seen an increase in demand for help with paying council tax

Calls to extend support measures

Councils are now calling on the Government to lengthen many of the support measures which have been introduced during the pandemic. This includes an extension to the eviction ban, having previously warned that around half a million private tenants who pay over half their income on rent could be at risk of eviction when the ban ends.

Councillor Giles Archibald, DCN’s Better Lives spokesperson, said: “These hard-hitting findings reveal the devastating toll of coronavirus on households who have struggled to pay the bills, put food on the table, and keep a roof over their heads.

“The Government has stepped in and provided much-needed additional support for families.

“But while these have been welcome, there are serious concerns that if many measures do not continue, many families will be unable to get by.”

He added: “District councils, who have been on the frontline fighting coronavirus, will continue to do everything they can to support households facing hardship.

“However, this needs to be backed up with the continuation of many welfare measures brought in during the pandemic, and support for councils to lead the local effort to create jobs and support families across our towns and cities. Without this many families could face disaster.”