William Eichler 20 December 2017

Government’s homelessness approach ‘unacceptably complacent’, MPs say

Government’s homelessness approach ‘unacceptably complacent’, MPs say

A committee of MPs tasked with overseeing the Government’s accounts has launched a devastating attack on the DCLG’s approach to dealing with the homelessness crisis.

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) accused the Department for Communities and Local Government of having an ‘unacceptably complacent’ attitude to reducing homelessness.

The committee’s report, published today, also said the department’s ‘light touch’ approach to working with the local authorities tackling homelessness has ‘clearly failed’.

More than 78,000 households, including over 120,000 children, are homeless and housed in temporary accommodation. There are also ‘hidden homeless’ people who are housed by family and friends in shifting circumstances, but not captured in official figures.

The PAC report notes that homelessness has been on the rise for some time.

Since 2010, when the Conservatives took power under David Cameron, the number of households in temporary accommodation has increased by more than 60%, and since March 2011 the number of people who sleep rough has risen by 134%.

The DCLG’s homelessness strategy revolves around the Homelessness Reduction Act. However, the PAC report warns this cannot be successful without a ‘renewed focus’ on tackling the housing crisis which is the underlying cause of homelessness.

‘The latest official figures hammer home the shameful state of homelessness in England and the abject failure of the Government’s approach to addressing the misery suffered by many thousands of families and individuals,’ said committee chair, Meg Hillier MP.

‘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,’ Ms Hillier continued.

‘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.

‘Delegating a problem is not a solution and we do not share the Government’s faith in the cure-all potential of the Homelessness Reduction Act.

‘There are practical steps it can take now—for example, targeting financial support on local authorities with acute shortages of suitable housing, rather than those councils which are simply ready to spend—that would make a real difference to people’s lives.’

A Government spokesman said: ‘Tackling homelessness is a complex issue with no single solution, but we are determined to help the most vulnerable in society.

‘That’s why we are providing over £1bn up to 2020 to reduce all forms of homelessness and rough sleeping and we are bringing in the Homelessness Reduction Act, which is the most ambitious reform in decades, to ensure people get support sooner.

‘In addition, we have established a Rough Sleeping and Homelessness Reduction Taskforce across government, with support from experts, so we can respond as effectively as possible.’

Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran, who sits on the committee, commented: 'This damning report exposes the Government’s failure to protect the most vulnerable in society.

'Soaring levels of homelessness have meant even many people in work are now finding themselves on the streets or in temporary accommodation.

'The complacency ministers are showing on this issue is totally unacceptable and must come to an end.

'Instead of passing the buck to local authorities, the Government must take responsibility for ending rough sleeping and building the truly affordable homes the country needs.'

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