LGA First Magazine | Helping the homeless

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No.606 | December 2016

Helping the homeless

A wider housing strategy is needed to deliver on the Homelessness Reduction Bill’s aims

Rough sleeper outside ECC

Ever since the draft Homeless Reduction Bill was published in Parliament in October, the LGA has worked hard to influence proposals within it and highlight concerns that without a wider housing strategy the Bill would not achieve its aim of reducing homelessness

The Private Member’s Bill – being led by Bob Blackman MP – proposes to extend the duties on local authorities to prevent and relieve homelessness.

Councils want to end homelessness and are already doing everything they can with existing resources to prevent and tackle it. However, the LGA has warned there is no silver bullet, and councils alone cannot tackle rising homelessness.

The causes of of homelessness are many and varied, ranging from financial to social, and councils were concerned the original draft Bill was undeliverable and would not achieve its outcomes.

LGA engagement with Government officials and Bob Blackman ahead of the final Bill being published has led to a series of positive changes. This has helped shape it into a more realistic piece of legislation that is more workable for councils to meet the needs of vulnerable people.

This included the removal of the 56-day accommodation duty for those with nowhere to stay, as there is an insufficient supply of suitable accommodation to discharge this duty.

The requirement to recognise an expired section 21 notice [issued by landlords to evict tenants] as proof of homelessness was replaced with a more flexible requirement in line with existing statutory guidance.

The LGA has been clear from the outset that all new duties proposed in the Bill will also need to be fully funded. As a result of this lobbying, the Government committed to fully funding the new duties under the New Burdens Doctrine when the Bill received its Second Reading in October.

The sector continues to press the case for sufficient funding from the Government to successfully deliver responsibilities.

It wants the Government to commit to undertaking a comprehensive review of the bill’s impact after a year of implementation to ensure that it is achieving its objectives and that councils are being properly funded.

it is clear that legislative change alone will not resolve homelessness.

Homelessness is spreading across all areas of the country. The number of households local authorities have been forced to place in temporary accommodation has risen by 48% since 2010, while rough sleeping has doubled.

This crisis is spreading nationwide. Since 2010, the use of temporary accommodation has gone up 44% in London and 58% across the rest of England.

Councils also need powers and funding to address the widening gap between incomes and rents, resume their historic role as a major builder of new affordable homes and join up all local services – such as health, justice and skills.

This is the only way to deliver on the national ambition to address the causes of homelessness and prevent it happening in the first place.

Policy In Practice | Delivering the Homelessness Reduction Bill

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14 November 2016

Delivering the Homelessness Reduction Bill

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The Homelessness Reduction Bill has passed a key milestone in Westminster. What does this mean for tackling homelessness locally? What data supports this work going forward?
Reducing homelessness

The growing homelessness problem is clear to see every night as we leave the office in Westminster. Visit any town or city centre and you see more and more people sleeping rough.

We are now feeling the pinch of reduced public funding. There is less money spent on supported housing, less on mental health services and ongoing cuts to benefits. Alongside this we see the continual rise of private rents and house prices, making housing dearer. These all add to this rise in homelessness.

Government statistics on homelessness show that rough sleeping doubled between 2010 and 2015, while the number of households accepted as homeless and in priority need by councils has been rising steadily since 2009, from 41,780 to 56,500 in 2015.

Delivering the Homelessness Reduction Bill
Cartoon courtesy of Private Eye. Subscribe here
A new Bill

The Homelessness Reduction Bill, a private members bill from Conservative MP Bob Blackman, passed its second reading on Friday 28 October. It aims to give homeless people greater protection and support – and for longer.

Here are the Bill’s key points:

  • Extending the meaning of being homeless or threatened with homelessness. In effect, providing support for more people and for longer.
  • Councils will have to assess what led to each applicant’s homelessness and set out an action plan to resolve this. This means providing free advice and support for anyone at risk of homelessness, including those not considered to be in ‘priority need’. This will extend the support to many single people and to rough sleepers.
  • Councils will have to help to find suitable housing for all eligible households threatened with homelessness, and provide help for longer.
  • If homeless households refuse to engage, their support will be limited. It shows it has to be two-way.
  • All young people leaving care will be deemed to have a local connection in the area the local authority is providing them with leaving care services.
  • The Secretary of State has a power to produce a statutory code to raise the standards of homelessness support services across the country.

As well as support among MPs, the government and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn have backed the Bill.

On 10 October 2016 the Communities and Local Government Committee published their report in support of legislation aimed at reducing homelessness by ensuring that vulnerable people receive consistently high levels of service from local housing authorities across the county. This is now awaiting government response. Read the report here.

Local government backing

Councils weren’t happy with the original Bill, particularly because it placed greater demand on them without any extra cash. However, the Bill has been changed – it no longer places a duty to provide emergency temporary accommodation for 56 days to people with a local connection but who aren’t in priority need.

This has won over the Local Government Association and therefore local authorities, although the LGA recognises that extra funding is still needed, including to help boost council house-building.

The government’s recent announcement to invest £40 million to reduce homelessness may well have pacified councils. In addition, government minister Marcus Jones has assured MPs that councils will be given new money to implement the bill. He said the government will work with the LGA on how best to provide funding. Tackling homelessness was also a theme from welfare minister Lord Freud at the recent IRRV conference.

Real support on the ground available

If the Bill makes it all the way through parliament, the real challenge will be implementing it.

Our recent breakfast seminar looking at the 4 main challenges to implementing welfare reforms in London and the South East highlighted temporary accommodation as a key challenge, particularly in London.

In addition, recently updated Policy in Practice analysis on the impact of housing benefit welfare reforms also highlighted this.

The cost of this type of housing is stretching many councils. Worse, for these claimants on Universal Credit, some councils are having to make Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP) to fund the temporary accommodation, therefore leaving less funding available to others in need.

How Policy in Practice is helping organisations

Policy in Practice can help you to identify households under financial pressure and their housing situation. Our welfare reform impact analysis helps councils and housing partners to better target scarce support resources to where they’re most needed. Our Universal Benefit and Budgeting calculator gives people clear information to help them make the decisions that are right for them.

Policy in Practice has been awarded a policy research grant by Trust for London to analyse the impact of welfare reform on households across London. Using councils’ anonymised data sets we will identify the main drivers of poverty in the capital. Our household level approach lets us track income, employment and poverty for half a million low income households over time.

As part to of this project we will assess how low income households are impacted by national and local policies, and whether support reaches those who need it most. Find out more about our Low Income Londoners and Welfare Reform project here.

Not in London? Join our webinar on supporting your most vulnerable residents on Wednesday 07 December.

St Mungos | MPs unanimously back Homelessness Reduction Bill

Dear Paul

We did it. Today, MPs turned up in Parliament to debate the Homelessness Reduction Bill. MPs unanimously backed the Bill and it is now one step closer to becoming law. This is a momentous occasion, thank you for being part of it. 

Whether you were one of the 4,000 St Mungo’s campaigners who emailed your MP, or shared our posts on Facebook, or sent MPs messages of thanks on Twitter – however you have showed your support for the work we do and the changes we have been calling for, this is your victory.

The Homelessness Reduction Bill is a Private Member’s Bill, and as such was always going to be harder to get through Parliament than a bill introduced by the Government.

Despite the odds, we are delighted that Bob Blackman MP was selected and that he decided to take this opportunity to introduce the Homelessness Reduction Bill in. Since then, you have contacted your MPs in your thousands, asking them to attend the debate today and vote in favour of the Bill.

In the last month, both the leader of the opposition and then the Government have come out in support of the Homelessness Reduction Bill. This was great to hear and a real boost – but the groundwork had already been laid by dedicated campaigners. People like you, who told their MPs that this mattered to them.

MPs do care what their constituents think. If your MP was one who said that they couldn’t attend, don’t lose heart. Today is a day that will not be forgotten easily, by us, or by those who thought that this couldn’t happen.

We’ve still got a way to go until the Bill becomes law, but this is a major step in the right direction. Well done.

Have a lovely weekend.

Jennean and the St Mungo’s Campaigns team

Crisis | Homelessness Reduction Bill passes crucial Second Reading

Hi Paul,

As a Crisis campaigner, I wanted you to be among the first to know that the Homelessness Reduction Bill has passed its crucial second reading in the House of Commons today. A huge number of MPs turned up to support the Bill and it was passed without opposition.

We’re hugely grateful for all the time and passion that thousands of campaigners like you have put into getting the bill this far. The fact that so many MPs were in the chamber for the debate is a direct result of the emails and meetings that have shown our representatives how passionately we care about ending homelessness.

We’ve got the momentum and the cross-party consensus. But this is no time for complacency. There’s still a lot of work needed to get this bill through parliament and to make sure any new law really works for homeless people. So we’ll need your help again. 

But right now we can feel proud that, against the odds, we’re a big step closer to stopping homeless people getting turned away when they ask for help.

Have a good weekend,

Alex
Campaigns Manager

PS. We’re not going to ask you to do any more campaigning right now, but if you’re feeling inspired to do more for homeless people you can donate to our life-changing services and campaigning.

Crisis Impact Report: Homelessness ends here

What happens when a homelessness reduction Bill meets a homelessness increase policy?

Red Brick

A surprising degree of consensus has broken out in support of the Homelessness Reduction Bill, a private members Bill due to be debated in the House of Commons tomorrow (Friday), with backing now being given by both the Government and by the Opposition as well as the Local Government Association (whose members will have to implement it) and the charitable homelessness sector, primarily Crisis, which is in enthusiastic support. The Bill will need to get the backing of 100 MPs in a division tomorrow to be able to pass the first substantive stage and then go into Committee for more detailed scrutiny.

The version of the Bill to be debated tomorrow (it has already been amended from the original version after negotiations with the LGA and scrutiny by the CLG Select Committee) can be found on the House of Commons Library site hereand the Library has also done an…

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Government backs new law to prevent people made homeless through government laws from becoming homeless

Politics and Insights

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Theresa May’s ritualistic Tory chanting: “getting people’s lives back on track”

Earlier this month, Theresa May surprisingly unveiled a £40 million package designed to prevent homelessness by intervening to help individuals and families before they end up on the streets. It was claimed that the “shift” in government policy will move the focus away from dealing with the consequences of homelessness and place prevention “at the heart” of the Prime Minister’s approach. 

Writing in the Big Issue magazine – sold by homeless people – May said: “We know there is no single cause of homelessness and those at risk can often suffer from complex issues such as domestic abuse, addiction, mental health issues or redundancy.”

“So I believe it’s time we changed our approach. We can no longer focus on tackling the symptoms and immediate consequences of homelessness. We need to put prevention at the heart of a new approach.

“As a first…

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Crisis | The Second Reading of the Homelessness Reduction Bill: What’s all the fuss about?

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27 October 2016

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The Second Reading of the Homelessness Reduction Bill: What’s all the fuss about?

by Helena Brice,  Public Affairs Officer

You may have noticed over the past couple of months that we here at Crisis have been getting increasingly excited about the ‘Second Reading’ of the Homelessness Reduction Bill on 28 October but you may not know why.

It involves some rather arcane parliamentary processes, but could have a huge impact on homelessness in England. So here’s an explainer:

What’s the problem?

In England if you don’t have dependent children or you can’t prove that you are particularly vulnerable then your local authority has no legal obligation to offer you meaningful help.

Just imagine. You’ve lost your home. You’ve worn out the welcome on the sofas of family or friends so, in desperation, you go to your council for help. You tell them that tonight you will literally be sleeping on a park bench if you don’t get help. But even then you are turned away, sent back out the door to sleep on the streets, cold, lonely and forgotten.

What does the Homelessness Reduction Bill do about that?

If passed, it will give councils a legal duty to give people meaningful support to resolve their homelessness. It will introduce measures to prevent people becoming homeless in the first place. If it survives its passage through parliament it will undoubtedly be one of the most important developments for homelessness in 40 years.

You say ‘if passed’… does that mean it could fail?

Yes. This Friday 28 October the fate of the Homelessness Reduction Bill hangs in the balance. It is a Private Member’s Bill which was brought forwards by MP Bob Blackman. As such it can be easily blocked or ‘talked out’ as it receives its Second Reading in Parliament this Friday.

(We’ve seen this happen recently with the Turing Bill and the Revenge Evictions Bill, both of which were Private Members’ Bills that were talked out)

…so we find out if the bill lives or dies at this Second Reading you keep tweeting about?

For now. The Second Reading is the first opportunity for MPs to debate the main principles of the Bill. In order for a Bill to get past Second Reading the sponsor of the bill, in this case Bob Blackman, must secure the closure of the debate (which basically means getting MPs to stop talking).

For a closure motion to succeed in favour of the bill there must be at least 100 supportive MPs present. If there were 98 who supported and 2 who opposed, the Bill would fail. Hence we have been asking you to email your MPs asking them to turn up and support it. (and a huge thank you to the thousands of you that have done so).

However if no one opposes the bill the Chair puts the question on second reading (that is that people agree the bill passes its second reading), collects the ‘voices’ (essentially how many people say ‘Ayes’ and how many say ‘No’) and if it’s too close to call they call a division. For a division to pass in our favour the ‘Aye’ must be in the majority with more than 40 Members participating.

What if the bill fails?

We will have missed a precious opportunity to change the homelessness legislation and will be relying on the government’s good will to take it on and bring it forward as their own bill. In order for this to happen the government would have to announce it in the Queen’s speech (which didn’t happen this year round) or tag it on to another Bill, however no Bills have yet been put forward that it could be tagged on to.

And if it gets through?

If the bill gets through the Second Reading that is a massive hurdle overcome. But there is still a long way to go before it gets enshrined in the law. The bill then has to go through public bill committee, report stage, third reading and then the Lords.

Is there anything I can do to help?

Yes. Visit our No One Turned Away campaign page to find out how you can join the thousands of campaigners who have helped us to get the Homelessness Reduction Bill this far.