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LONDON, March 22 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - England will not be able to keep vulnerable families and young people off the streets unless the government drastically changes policies that shut low-wage earners out of the housing system, according to a report released on Wednesday.
A lack of affordable homes, along with government funding cuts and restrictions on welfare benefits, has helped increase the country's homeless population by 6 percent over the last year to 58,000 people, said a report by the housing charity Crisis.
The British government set out long-term plans in February to tackle England's chronic shortage of housing, largely blamed on failures to ensure homebuilding has kept pace with demand.
Matthew Downie, policy director for Crisis, said fast action on housing is needed to combat growing homelessness and cuts by the ruling Conservative government.
"This report is local councils saying, 'We are at the complete end of our tether.' Their hands are so, so tied in terms of that they can do," Downie told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
"What people are saying is we just don't know how the system can continue as it is," he said.
The government has invested 550 million pounds ($686.46 million) over the next three years to help prevent homelessness, a spokesman said.
The report said half of local authorities surveyed found it difficult to find homes for single young people, and large families face similar difficulties due to caps on welfare.
Government limits have left people ineligible for services that few years ago they would have received, Downie said.
A government plan to cut housing benefit payments for people under age 21 will be a "straightforward disaster," he said.
The government has said the reform is needed to ensure that those with jobs have the same opportunities as those without work. (Reporting by Matthew Ponsford, Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org)