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Flitwick
Sunday, 16 May 2021

Sofa surfing impact in Central Bedfordshire

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More than 100 sofa surfers sought a roof over their heads in Central Bedfordshire during the past year, a meeting heard.

There were 118 requests for help with housing from people who had been sofa surfing between 1 April 2020 and 31 March 2021.

And a further 172 approaches were made from individuals unable to provide a previous address, who could be considered of no fixed abode, Central Bedfordshire Council was told.

The council’s managing this problem effectively,” according to its executive member for housing and assets and Dunstable Watling councillor Eugene Ghent.

During 2020, the council offered accommodation to all individuals affected by homelessness and were at risk of rough sleeping,” he said.

Councillor Ghent was responding to an open question from Liberal Democrat Houghton Hall councillor Susan Goodchild.

Sadly we know there are thousands of individuals and families sofa surfing,” she explained.

They must suffer the indignity of having to sleep on someone else’s sofa or floor.

Having a home enables people to build a life and thrive. I’m aware some will need to be supported to achieve this.

Has the council undertaken any recent research to determine how many residents are currently sofa surfing?

I would also like to have some idea of the eventual destinations before and after sofa surfing.

Is someone doing this recognised as being in housing need, which is the official definition?

Conservative Ghent replied: “CBC makes the best use of the national research available to proactively prevent homelessness, including sofa surfing.

The most recent research was done by the charity Crisis in December 2019, which estimated there were 71,500 sofa surfers in the UK or 0.3 per cent of the population.

If you apply that same percentage to Central Bedfordshire, there could potentially be 86 individuals sofa surfing in this area.

This figure is consistent with the numbers we’ve identified locally, mindful all the time sofa surfers get displaced and can become rough sleepers when relationships break down.

People find themselves doing this usually after a relationship with family members has broken down or one with partners.

Sometimes they’ve lost their accommodation through being evicted, and friends temporarily take them in, so they can go from one place to another.”

Many applications from sofa surfers result in them being provided with support housing, such as lodgings or shared accommodation.

Or they’re helped to find privately rented accommodation, if they’ve been previously successful at holding a tenancy together,” added councillor Ghent.

Any individual sofa surfing would be recognised as homeless and would be provided with housing relief duty to assist them find permanent settled accommodation.

The council always complies with its legal obligations and this includes sofa surfers.

The case work may involve work to mend relationships, learn life skills or to manage expectations, rather than just set someone up into a home they’re unable to sustain.

Our housing team look at all angles to either get them back on track, help them manage those expectations and learn skills to manage themselves.”

Councillor Goodchild said: “I recognise the exemplary work performed by our housing service.”

Councillor Ghent agreed to provide her a response in writing.

Euan Duncan, Local Democracy Reporter
The Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) is a public service news agency: funded by the BBC, provided by the local news sector, and used by qualifying partners. It’s like a franchise: different companies with different approaches, but using common editorial standards and all publishing into the same system.

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