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Labour Considers National Housing First Pledge To Tackle Homelessness Crisis

PoliticsHome understands Labour are considering three main strands to their policy to tackle the homelessness crisis. (Alamy)

3 min read

Exclusive: Labour is considering a manifesto pledge to roll out Housing First nationwide in a bid to tackle the UK's growing crisis of homelessness and rough sleeping, PoliticsHome understands.

Housing First operates on seven key principles including the right to a home; giving of individuals control over the type and location of their housing; and a focus on harm reduction. 

It was originally commissioned by local authorities in England in 2010 on a small scale, but was then expanded by the government in 2017 to test delivery at a regional level with £28m of investment; combined authorities in Manchester, Liverpool, and Birmingham are current pilot areas. 

In September, Manchester Labour mayor Andy Burnham told PoliticsHome the scheme had been crucial in the city's success in bringing down rough sleeping numbers despite figures rising nationally, and said it had given the city "the confidence to improve A Bed Every Night" -  Burnham's flagship homelessness strategy. 

However, there is current uncertainty about the future of the scheme in pilot areas, with the government not announcing any funding for it beyond 2025. 

PoliticsHome understands that the Labour party is considering rolling this policy out nationally as their big policy offer on the homelessness following Housing First's success both in pilot areas in the UK and where its been implemented internationally in countries like Finland, which has almost completely eliminated homelessness. 

In January, Inside Housing reported 92 per cent of Housing First participants in pilot areas in England were now living in long-term accomodation. And a report by Homeless Link found 50.4 per cent of participants in Housing First showed reduction in their mental health needs after the first year in the scheme, followed by 58.2 per cent and 54.5 per cent showing reduction in mental health needs by the end of the second and third years respectively.

The Labour party is also considering providing additional funding to local councils to enable them to have localised data to prevent vulnerable people - such as those expelled from school or recently released from prison - becoming homelessness. PoliticsHome understands the policy has been fully costed by the party.  

There is also a third core policy the party is considering on homelessness, which is awaiting sign off by the Labour leader Keir Starmer's office. 

Labour's plans on homelessness and rough sleeping come after the government failed to meet its target to end rough sleeping by 2024. Instead, homelessness and rough sleeping is currently at record highs in England and Wales - with government figures showing an estimated 3,898 people counted as sleeping rough across England on a single night 2023, a 27 per cent increase compared to the previous year. 

Between July and September 2023, 109,000 households were recorded as homeless and living in temporary accomodation, a record high and up 10 per cent on the previous year - including 142,490 children. 

The Labour Party declined to comment.

Responding to the story Matt Downie, chief executive at Crisis, told PoliticsHome the introduction of Housing First nationally would be "transformational". 

"Person-centred support like Housing First provides people in vulnerable situations with safe and secure homes, and gives them a stable platform upon which to build a new life away from homelessness," said Downie. 

“With rough sleeping increasing across the country, it is promising to see this proven solution for helping people rebuild their lives away from the streets under consideration. We look forward to seeing more detail on how Labour and the other major parties propose to end homelessness for good.”

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