By Blog Writer Ethan Moxam
Housing secretary James Brokenshire has vowed to make homelessness “a thing of the past”, as well as the government unveiling a £100m plan to tackle rough sleeping. The plan comes as part of a wider strategy to fulfil the government’s promise to eliminate homelessness by 2027.
The government says it wishes to ‘help people turn their lives around’, which includes £30m towards support for mental health and addictions. Such support includes training for staff to aid those affected by spice, an illegal drug which continues to ravage the homeless population. Ministers will also introduce accommodation that is designed for individuals leaving prison to prevent them ending up on the streets. Mr Brokenshire also stated that £50m of the fund has already been dedicated to provide homes for those outside of London who are ready to leave homeless hostels or domestic abuse refuges in England.
The new strategy is said to be taking a three tonged approach according to the ministry of housing, communities and Local government. This will comprise of prevention, intervention and recovery. However, it should be noted the £100m fund is not new found money. When speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr Brokenshire said that half of the government’s flagship fund had been “reprioritised” from existing budgets in his department, whereas the rest of the fund was already being directed towards rough sleeping initiatives.
The plan has been welcomed by many, with Polly Neate, the chief executive of charity Shelter, stating the strategy ‘is an important step forward’. However she continued “but let’s be clear this is a step forward but not a total fix for homelessness”. Neate stated further that we need to face the chronic lack of affordable housing, problems with housing benefit, and the instability of renting.
Official statistics revealed homelessness has increased for the seventh consecutive year, up 169 per cent since 2010. Last autumn 4,751 people were on the streets in England. The plans were well received by Howard Sinclair, chief executive of St. Mungo’s homeless charity saying: “Rough sleeping is harmful, dangerous and dehumanising and we share the government’s aim that no one should have to sleep rough.”
Many have been quick to criticise the plans, claiming that the dramatically rising numbers have been due to the government’s welfare and spending cuts, as well as a failure to build new homes. Labour described the plan as “feeble” and lacking in urgency. Shadow housing secretary, John Healey said: “The funding announced will barely register compared to the reckless Conservative cuts” and “If ministers believed this was a serious plan they wouldn’t be burying it in mid-august”. Labour has pledged to end rough sleeping in its first term in office by making available 8,000 homes.
Mr Brokenshire denied that government policies were behind the rise of homelessness. However, the minister did commit to reviewing current welfare policies and their impact on homelessness, particularly universal credit. He said: “I’m not going to be sitting here blindly ignoring evidence that comes to sight”.
Furthermore, ministers are also expected to review current legislation regarding homelessness, particularly the Vagrancy Act, which makes it illegal to sleep rough or beg in England and Wales. In Response to this Prime Minister Theresa May said: “We recognise this is a complex issue – as well as ensuring people have somewhere to live, we have to deal with underlying problems and ultimately help people turn their lives around”.
Sources and Further Reading
- May Bulman, ‘Government's '£100m plan' to eradicate rough sleeping is not new money, minister admits’, The Independent (13 August 2018)
- ‘Rough sleeping: £100m government plan to tackle homelessness unveiled’, BBC News (13 August 2018)
- Ashley Cowburn, ‘Theresa May unveils £100m government fund to eradicate rough sleeping in England within a decade’, The Independent (13 August 2018)
- Dan Sabbagh,‘May urged to go further in plan to end rough sleeping by 2027’, The Guardian (13 August 2018)
- Patrick Butler, ‘Rough sleeper numbers in England rise for seventh year running’, The Guardian (25 January 2018)
Image: Pedro Ribeiro Simões @flickr