Hundreds of struggling families at risk of losing their homes

Labour councillor Cliff Waterman Picture: MARIAM GHAEMI

Labour councillor Cliff Waterman Picture: MARIAM GHAEMI - Credit: MARIAM GHAEMI

Hundreds of west Suffolk families are battling poverty, with nearly 400 being saved from homelessness last year alone.

West Suffolk cabinet member for housing, councillor Sara Mildmay-White (far right), with others who

West Suffolk cabinet member for housing, councillor Sara Mildmay-White (far right), with others who work to tackle homelessness - Credit: Archant

Leader of West Suffolk Council, John Griffiths, said the local authority had, together with partners, invested heavily in reducing and preventing homelessness in the area, stopping 393 households from losing their homes in 2018/19.

Labour councillor Cliff Waterman praised the council's efforts, but added the figures highlighted the extent of poverty in west Suffolk - an area generally considered to be affluent.

He has called for West Suffolk Council to set up a poverty prevention task force - along the lines of those set up to tackle rural issues and the climate emergency - so that more can be done to address the problem, but the cabinet member for housing said she was "not convinced" it would have any more impact.

A council spokesman said the causes for homelessness could be varied and are not always linked to financial struggles.

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Mr Waterman told councillors at a recent meeting: "We are doing great things, but these figures show we are a two-tier society. Hundreds of local families - perhaps thousands - are struggling. What are we doing to help people who have fallen into poverty, who are struggling to make ends meet, using food banks, going without meals?"

A West Suffolk Council spokesman said homelessness could also be as a result of a relationship breakdown, domestic abuse, a landlord's decision to end a tenancy or a family asking relatives to leave home.

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Councillor Sara Mildmay-White, cabinet member for housing, said: "We recognise that financial hardship, whatever the reasons behind it, does contribute to the number of homelessness applications that we receive. The council has a range of measures including financial support to help people in dire situations and we also help fund key partners such as Citizen's Advice and their role in assisting people."

She added they were also working to drive up skills, job creation and wages in West Suffolk, which already has very low levels of unemployment, while continuing conversations with the Government around related issues such as benefit reform.

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