Ministers accused of 'abject failure' on homelessness

Posted On: 
20th December 2017

Ministers must end their "light touch" approach to combatting homelessness if they are to halt its "shameful" rise, MPs have warned.

Rough sleeping has risen throughout this decade according to Government figures
Credit: 
PA Images

The Public Accounts Committee blasted the Government record as an "abject failure," as the number of people living in temporary accommodation or on the streets continues to soar.

Official figures show that since 2010 - the year the Tory/Liberal Democrat coalition took power - the number of households in temporary accommodation has rocketed by 60%.

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Meanwhile, the number of children living in temporary accommodation has jumped by 73% to 120,170 and the number living on the streets is said to have increased by 134% to over 4,000.

Charity workers estimate the numbers to be much higher because the ‘hidden homeless’ - people who are housed by family and friends - do not form part of official figures.

Chair of the committee Meg Hillier said the figures demonstrated the “shameful state of homelessness” in England and a lack of urgency on the part of ministers.

“The evidence we heard from organisations that work with homeless people should serve as a wake-up call: Government decisions are not made in a vacuum and the consequences can be severe,” she added.

“The Government must do more to understand and measure the real-world costs and causes of homelessness and put in place the joined-up strategy that is so desperately needed.

“That means properly addressing the shortage of realistic housing options for those at risk of homelessness or already in temporary accommodation.

“More fundamentally, it means getting a grip on the market’s failure to provide genuinely affordable homes, both to rent and to buy."

The MPs said the new Homelessness Reduction Act will ease the pressure, but warned that ministers were relying on it too heavily at the expense of investing in new housebuilding.

They called on the Department for Work and Pensions and Department for Communities and Local Government to come up with a strategy by June of ways to reduce homelessness.

On top of that they demanded an impact assessment of welfare reform on rising homelessness - amid long-running reports that the flagship Universal Credit system is plunging many into debt and destitution.

They called for better data including on the "wider costs of homelessness to public services" and including the 'hidden homeless' in official figures.

Furthermore, they said belated cooperation with local councils on tackling the scourge of homelessness could only go so far, and called on ministers to lead through “emphatic” action.

'DAMNING'

Shadow Housing Secretary John Healey said the committee's findings showed ministers also lacked an understanding of how to tackle the problem.

“This damning cross-party report shows that the Conservatives have caused the crisis of rapidly rising homelessness but have no plan to fix it," he said.

“This Christmas, the increase in homelessness is visible in almost every town and city in the country, but today’s report confirms Ministers lack both an understanding of the problem and any urgency in finding solutions.

“After an unprecedented decline in homelessness under Labour, Conservative policy decisions are directly responsible for rising homelessness.

“You can’t help the homeless without the homes, and Ministers have driven new social rented homes to the lowest level on record."