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Tue, 22 September 2020

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Labour blasts ministers for causing 'national shame' of homelessness as new figures show steep rise

Labour blasts ministers for causing 'national shame' of homelessness as new figures show steep rise
3 min read

Labour has attacked ministers for causing a "national shame" after new figures revealed a steep rise in homelessness ahead of Christmas.

Shadow Housing Minister John Healey said soaring homelessness was a "direct result" of Conservative policies as he slammed the Government's decisions for making the problem "worse".

It comes as Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government data found 68,170 families were homeless or at risk of losing their homes between April and June this year, an 11.4% rise on the same period in 2018.

The findings, drawn from reports provided by local authorities, also showed a total of 127,370 children living in temporary accomodation on 30 June 2019, up by nearly 3% from last year.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has vowed to eradicate homelessness by 2024 by making an "active intervention" which could see empty Ministry of Defence and NHS buildings converted into new homes.

Speaking during the election campaign, he said: "One of the things you'll remember when I was Mayor was the frustration of having all these pockets of land everywhere, whether owned by Network Rail, the NHS, the MoD.

"They are not allowed to make as good use of them as they might by the Treasury rules. I want to eradicate homelessness not just by helping the homeless but to do something to tell them to build more homes: an active intervention."

But Mr Healey said the "shameful" stats should serve as a "powerful reminder" of the need for his party to rebuild following its general election defeat, so it can tackle the issue.

"The national shame of high and rising homelessness this Christmas is a direct result of ten years of the Conservatives," he said.

"There's no more powerful reminder of the need for a Labour government than the homelessness we now see in every town and city in our country.

"We will continue to hold the Tories hard to account for their decisions which are making this problem worse and to make the case for change."

Responding to the new statistics, Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran said the rise shows the Government's approach "just isn't working".

She said: “We urgently need to take a more compassionate and holistic approach, across government, to tackling this crisis in our communities.

"Given the clear connection between a history of mental health problems and homelessness, any solution must involve better mental health provision."

“We also need to scrap the Dickensian Vagrancy Act, which continues to criminalise rough sleeping for those who fall through the safety net and end up on the streets.

“As Christmas approaches and the weather gets colder, I hope this serves as a wake-up call to the Tories. We can and must do better.”

The Ministry of Housing have been approached for comment.

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