More families in Dorset have become homeless or were at risk of losing their home in the last year.

In total,1,522 households needed help from the local authority due to homelessness or because they were at risk of homelessness between April 2022 to March 2023, compared to 1,380 in the previous year – a 10.2% increase.

This data is comprised from government statistics that counts both those owed relief and prevention duty by local authorities.

Relief duty is for those already homeless where there is an obligation to secure accommodation for six months, whereas prevention duty addresses those at risk of homelessness.

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It comes as a new report from the charity, Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE), states that rural homelessness and social housing lists across the south west region is the highest in England.

According to the report a total of 6,011 people were owed homeless relief duty between April 2022 and March 2023 – 755 of which were from Dorset.

People on social housing waiting lists are also the highest across the south west with 69,587 waiting for accommodation.

However, only 3,100 of those are from Dorset, which is a 44 per cent reduction since figures were recorded under the new unitary council, but a new housing system created in December 2021 has been attributed to these figures.

Dorset Council confirmed that the figures are likely similar to 2020 which were 5,536.

The findings of the report have prompted the CPRE to call for the government to do more to help alleviate the problem.

Rupert Hardy, chairman of north Dorset CPRE said: “CPRE’s latest report underlines the scale of this crisis – for families, communities, jobs, health and wellbeing - and suggests practical solutions.

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“Local councils recognise this impact of the shortage of affordable homes. Dorset CPRE welcomes recent calls for new planning and housing policies which do more to meet local housing needs of families and of young and older people, and key workers such as carers.

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“Investment is also needed to improve the low energy efficiency of much local housing by retrofitting insulation and solar panels.

“Such action would help with the cost of living, address the climate emergency and benefit local employment and skills.”

Sherborne was mentioned by name in the report as a town that has a ‘particular lack of social housing’.

Between April 2022 and March 2023, Dorset Council said there were 93 lets of social housing in in the town with a total of 284 households on the housing register.  

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Referring to the government data obtained by the Echo, a spokesperson for Dorset Council said: “It is important to understand that those owed a prevention duty do not necessarily go on to become homeless. So these figures create an inaccurate picture of actual homelessness as they are counted as 'threatened with homelessness'. 

"Only those in relief are factually homeless so you cannot put the two together as a total of 334 went from prevention duty to relief duty during this time and are therefore counted twice. So the figure is conflated by 334.”

The Echo was provided with figures from the council regarding the preventative action it has taken between April and September 2022-2023.

The amount of people it has helped to prevent becoming homeless or needing bed and breakfast accommodation rose from 157 to 225; this has been done through actions geared at helping people better manage their housing situation.

Dorset Council added: “Our housing options service has been transformed over the last year, by adopting a proactive approach of intervening with early prevention work to reduce homelessness, rather than assist people when they’re close to being on the streets in a crisis situation.  

“A key factor in preventing people from becoming homeless is due to investing in a new Tenancy Sustainment team, who work with landlords, mediate with family members, help with debt, and rent arrears.

“This approach is paying dividends, as we have seen a 43% increase in the number of people we have prevented from becoming homeless."

A total of 664 affordable homes were built by housing association or acquired by the council across Dorset in the year to March 2023.

Dorset Council added: “Last year saw a record number of affordable homes built for Dorset residents in the last financial year as we responded to the huge need for affordable housing."