The Homelessness Reduction Bill, due to be debated in the House of Commons today (Friday 28th October), aims to bring down high levels of homelessness by placing stronger duties on councils to help people who are homeless or threatened with homelessness at an earlier stage. Labour supports the Bill but has warned that any new rules must be fully funded.
Across England since 2010, the number of homeless people sleeping rough on the streets has doubled and headline or ‘statutory’ homelessness has increased by 44%. Under the Labour government from 1997-2010, rough sleeping fell by 75% and statutory homelessness was reduced by nearly two-thirds.
Labour has warned that homelessness will not be significantly reduced unless the causes of rising homelessness in the last six years are addressed. The Party has released analysis showing how Conservative cuts and decisions since 2010 have led directly to higher homelessness:
- cuts to housing benefit support worth over £5bn since 2010 – thirteen separate cuts to housing benefit over the last five years, including the bedroom tax and breaking the link between housing benefit for private renters (local housing allowance) and private rents;
- cuts to ‘supporting people’ which funds homelessness services – the National Audit Office have revealed that this vital funding fell by 45% between 2010 and 2015;
- soaring private rents – averaging more than £2000 extra each year than at the same point 2010; and
- the loss of affordable homes – with over 140,000 fewer council homes than in 2010, and the number of new government funded homes for started for social rent falling from nearly 40,000 in 2009/10 to less than 1,000 last year.
Labour is backing the cross-party Homelessness Reduction Bill but ministers must also act now to tackle the root causes of rising homelessness – build more affordable housing, act on private renting and re-think the crude cuts to housing benefit for the most vulnerable.
Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Housing, John Healey MP said:
“The scale of rising homelessness should shame us all. The number of people sleeping on the streets fell under Labour but has doubled with Conservative Ministers in charge.
“That’s why Labour is backing the Homelessness Reduction Bill and will press Ministers to fully fund it.
“Beyond this new legislation, the truth is you can’t help the homeless if you won’t build the homes. And this government has ended all funding for affordable social rented housing. It’s why the number of new social rented homes started in Labour’s last year was almost 40,000, while last year it was less than 1,000.”