William Eichler 14 October 2016

MPs give Homelessness Reduction Bill ‘ringing endorsement’

MPs have given a ‘ringing endorsement’ of legislation aimed at reducing homelessness, but councils warn it must be fully funded.

The Communities and Local Government (CLG) Committee has published its report into the Homelessness Reduction Bill and said they ‘strongly support’ the proposed legislation.

The Private Members’ Bill, tabled by Conservative Bob Blackman MP, is aimed at reducing homelessness by ensuring vulnerable people receive consistently high levels of service from local housing authorities.

One of its key features is a mandatory code of practice for councils and for local housing authorities to carry out assessments of all homelessness applications they receive.

‘The committee strongly supports the Homelessness Reduction Bill, which seeks to address many of the issues we found during our earlier inquiry into homelessness,’ said committee chair Clive Betts MP.

‘These included unacceptable levels of service at some local authorities, where people who are homeless or in danger of becoming homeless often face a hostile process.

‘After taking further detailed evidence on the Bill itself, we welcome its introduction of a mandatory code of good practice for councils.’

Mr Betts acknowledged the new duties contained within the Bill would ‘increase pressure on local authority resources’ and urged the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) to work with councils to develop a funding model that reflects local demand.

Responding to the committee’s report, the Local Government Association (LGA) said councils are doing ‘everything they can’ to solve homelessness but stressed they faced serious challenges.

‘Faced with rising demand, wide-ranging welfare reforms and falling social housing, councils are struggling to cope with their existing responsibilities to tackle the nation’s growing homelessness crisis,’ said Cllr Martin Tett, LGA housing spokesman.

‘The Communities and Local Government Committee report acknowledges that councils cannot do this alone and that there is no silver bullet.

‘It is important that any new duties on councils proposed in the Homelessness Reduction Bill are deliverable and fully funded, and focus on addressing the causes of homelessness.’

Cllr Tett added there needed to be a ‘collective effort’ from all public services to tackle homelessness.

Crisis, the national charity for homeless people, described the Bill as ‘a credible and much needed piece of legislation’ and called on the Government to support it.

'Never before has a private member’s bill been subjected to such close, expert scrutiny, and this ringing endorsement throws yet more weight behind it,' said Crisis chief executive Jon Sparkes, describing the committee's report.

‘This bill could be the next great social reform and make a difference to the lives of homeless people up and down the country,' he continued.

‘The Government has already recognised the lack of help available to many homeless people, and has pledged to consider “options including legislation”, but now is the time for action.’

The Bill will receive a second reading on October 28.

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