In recent years the number of people sleeping rough on the streets of Britain has doubled. A Private Member’s Bill currently before Parliament is intended to confront this homelessness epidemic currently facing the UK.
The Bill sets out twelve commitments to reducing homelessness. These are as follows:
- Defining the meaning of “homeless’ and ‘threatened with homelessness”
- Duty to provide Advisory Services
- Duty to assess all eligible applicants’ cases and agree a plan
- Duty in cases of “threatened homelessness”
- Duties owed to those who are homeless
- Duties to help secure accommodation
- Deliberate and unreasonable refusal to cooperate: duty upon giving of notice
- Local connection of a care leaver
- Duty of public authority to refer cases to local housing authority
- Codes of practise
- Suitability of private rented sector accommodation
Homelessness has been on the rise since 2010 and some experts have suggested that government figures have understated the number of young adults in need of assistance for shelter by as much as two thirds with an alleged 83,000 young people far outstripping the government’s own figure of 26,000.
The proposed bill, put forward by Tory MP Bob Blackman, is part of a concerted effort from politicians and charities such as Crisis to put more pressure on public bodies up and down the country to end the ‘national disgrace’ that is people sleeping rough.
The main crux of the bill is that it changes the definition of being ‘threatened with homelessness’ from 28 days to 56 days meaning people have longer to attain the guidance they need to avoid sleeping rough. Blackman added that the government would be providing funding for this change in time scale, in a move that amends the 1996 definition.
Additionally, councils would be obliged to provide support in the form of accommodation for those seeking housing through an expansion of the support net to include an applicant vulnerability ahead of the previously used priority list system.
Another stated aim is to create a culture change in councils to prevent the demonisation of the homeless that has been seen in the past. Efforts such as the expansion of the ‘threatened with homelessness’ time scale indicate this.
While broadly supporting the proposals, the Labour shadow housing secretary John Healey urged the government to ‘let actions speak louder than words and ensure extra council duties were fully funded’. Extra investment is needed to tackle the underlying causes of housing insecurity otherwise the Bill will not on its own solve the problem of rising homelessness.
In Portsmouth, the Labour Group echo John Healey’s support for the Bill.
Work cross-party is already underway in the city to help address the increase in homelessness in Portsmouth, take advantage of opportunities available nationally and to learn from what works elsewhere so that all our communities benefit.
The legislation should be seen as a positive step towards the kind of thinking that is needed to end homelessness in the UK and indeed in Portsmouth once and for all.