The news that more than 4,000 people a night have been sleeping rough on England’s streets, a 16% increase on last year, is a national crisis which is getting worse by the day says Sophie Bell, a lawyer dedicated to helping individuals facing homelessness at London law firm, Hodge Jones & Allen.
“The decimation of legal aid, benefits caps, a chronic social housing shortage fuelling the use of private and temporary accommodation and increasing rents has created a perfect storm which I am seeing every day in my case load. Local authorities frequently seek to deny that applicants are vulnerable and therefore in “priority need” despite clear and severe mental and physical health issues, and they seem prepared to fight these decisions tooth and nail.
“We’re seeing so much more of this than we did five years’ ago. In fact, I’ve recently had a case vigorously fought by Westminster Council over a two-year period, where the individual who suffers from mental health issues, was eventually forced to live in his car.
“This has only been resolved after a successful court appeal and now the council has been forced to house this individual. This is not an unusual event as under pressure councils seek to reduce the numbers of people they are responsible for housing.
“These decisions result in ever greater numbers of homeless individuals. The situation will only get worse as the perfect storm continues and as the effects of last year’s further benefit cap take hold and push even more people out of accommodation and onto the streets.”
Notes for Editors
Hodge Jones and Allen
- Hodge Jones and Allen is one of the UK’s most progressive law firms, renowned for doing things differently and fighting injustice. Its managing partner is Patrick Allen.
- For almost 40 years’ the firm has been at the centre of many of the UK’s landmark legal cases that have changed the lives and rights of many people.
- The firm’s team of specialists have been operating across: Personal Injury, Medical Negligence, Industrial Disease, Civil Liberties, Criminal Defence, Court of Protection, Dispute Resolution, Employment, Family Law, Military Claims, Serious Fraud, Social Housing, Wills & Probate and Property Disputes.
- Co-founder Patrick Allen is still at the helm of the firm he co-founded in 1977.
- In 2016 the firm launched Hearing their voices – a campaign to raise awareness and build conversations around the issues and the injustices we might all face.