LGIU | Housing and Homelessness – Where are we now?

LGIU Policy Briefing

November 24, 2016

Housing and Homelessness – Where are we now?

Author: Sheila Camp, LGiU associate

Summary

This briefing looks at the changes heralded for housing policy by the post-Cameron Conservative government. Is it, as Inside Housing proclaimed in the wake of the Tory party conference, “a new dawn” or merely a slight shift in government rhetoric? At present, details are scarce but a Housing White Paper is promised before 2017.

We also look at the broad conclusions of the Communities and Local Government Committee’s inquiry into homelessness (PDF document) and ask whether the potential policy changes will start to address the main contributory factors to the rise in homelessness which the Committee identified. It also looks at the proposals in the Homelessness Reduction Bill, a Private Members Bill introduced by one of the Committee members, Bob Blackman, and now backed by government.

This briefing will be of particular interest to members and officers with responsibility for housing, housing advice and support for vulnerable residents and of general interest to other elected members and officers.

Note This briefing was written just before the Autumn Statement – we will be publishing a detailed briefing shortly on the Autumn Statement which will include the housing measures in it.

Briefing in full

Following the referendum result and with few “big beasts” from the previous administration remaining in government, the stage was set for policy changes, most notably the abandonment of the previous Chancellor’s austerity programme, designed to produce a budget surplus by 2020.

Housing policy under the Cameron government was based largely on the belief that the current housing shortage could be resolved by prioritising home ownership and doing little to assist households who could not afford it – other than further welfare benefit restrictions. Social landlords, their development plans already constrained by the one per cent rent cut over the next four years, found that central government investment was to be restricted to home ownership schemes, with “starter homes” now dubbed affordable housing.

The Housing and Planning Act 2015 underpinned this policy drive, with right to buy extended to housing association tenants, a mandatory requirement for starter homes to be included in new build schemes, and various measures – for example “pay to stay” and fixed term tenancies – designed to make renting from councils less attractive, though Pay to stay has now been dropped by the government.

Against a background of housing shortage, rising private sector rents and increasing homelessness, the Communities and Local Government Select Committee begun an enquiry into homelessness in December 2015. Their report was published on 18 August 2016, shortly after the May government took office, and identified many of the underlying aspects of the housing crisis which were contributing to the rise in homelessness.

At the beginning of October, the Prime Minister in her Conference speech set out the broad issues on which her government’s housing policy would be based, signalling somewhat of a break with the previous emphasis on home ownership and prompting Inside Housing’s enthusiastic headline “a new dawn”. Whether that turns out to be the case is yet to be determined.

Potential Policy changes

In keeping with her pledge to govern for the whole country when she took over as Prime Minister, Theresa May’s main message in her conference speech was that housing policy should work for all. In perhaps a tacit admission that her predecessor’s policies to boost home ownership above all else, would not solve the housing crisis, she said “we simply need to build more homes”. So, what are the major policy changes heralded by May and fleshed out a little by the incoming ministerial team of Secretary of State Sajid Javid and Housing Minister Gavin Barwell?

Housing supply

With the Prime Minister indicating a more interventionist approach to housing supply than simply promoting home ownership initiatives, the government announced a new Home Building Fund of £3 billion (made up of unallocated funds from existing programmes) to be used both for infrastructure and to assist small builders; and a £2 billion Accelerated Construction programme to underwrite housing development – in the event of the market proving difficult, builders know properties can be purchased by the Homes and Communities Agency.

Increasing supply will focus on 100 local authority areas where demand greatly exceeds local supply; these areas have not yet been identified publicly, but may in fact be concentrated in the south east to the detriment of other parts of the country.

More flexibility over tenure

In keeping with Theresa May’s assertion that “we simply need to build more homes”, the new Housing Minister indicated that the Shared Ownership and Affordable Homes programme may be expanded to enable schemes for sub- market rental dwellings to be funded.

Redefining Starter Homes

At present, Starter Homes are defined in the Housing and Planning Act 2015 as properties for first-time buyers under 40 with a discount of at least 20 per cent. The new Housing Minister indicated that he would consider widening the definition to include other types of Starter Homes. No details are yet available.

Brownfield land

Details are also awaited on a promised package of measures to encourage urban regeneration and building on brownfield land.

Housing White Paper (November/December)

The Housing Minister has indicated that the Housing White Paper, promised before the end of 2016, will provide a “detailed strategy” on increasing the supply of new homes. Hopefully, it will also flesh out the other changes the government has heralded, including any necessary legislative changes, for example any redefinition of Starter Homes. It will provide an opportunity for everyone with an interest in solving the country’s housing crisis to assess whether the new regime is really on track to increase supply to the degree necessary

Homelessness inquiry CLG committee

The Committee’s main conclusions and recommendations to stem the rise in homelessness are set out below.

Factors contributing to the increase in homelessness

There is no one single cause of homelessness, although there are trends in factors which contribute to the loss of a home.

The private rented sector (PRS)

The ending of a fixed term Assured Shorthold Tenancy is an increasing reason for a household becoming homeless, up to 30% in 2015 from 13% 10 years’ earlier (DCLG figures). Rising rents mean households are often unable to find affordable alternative accommodation, given the level of Local Housing Allowance – the housing benefit payment based on the 30th percentile of market rents in the area, which frequently does not cover the actual asking rent.

In addition, there is evidence that landlords are less willing to let to people on housing benefit and even more wary about letting to homeless households.

The Committee concluded that the government should look at ways of giving greater confidence to both landlords and tenants to let to homeless people, including reviewing LHA levels and promoting longer ASTs.

Availability of social housing

The Committee concluded that problems in the PRS were exacerbated by the shortage of social housing, which, despite the demonstrable demand, is no longer funded by government. Whilst accepting there is a demand for the home ownership initiatives, particularly starter homes, not everyone can afford them. The current government definition of “affordable housing” should be reviewed so that it includes social rented housing.

Changes to the welfare system

The Committee identified several changes which have contributed – or have the potential to contribute – the increase in homelessness. These are

  • the freezing of working age benefits for 4 years
  • the reduction in the household benefit cap from £26,000 to £20,000 (£23,000 in London)
  • excluding 18-21 year olds from claiming housing support (from April 2017)
  • extension of the Shared Accommodation rate of housing benefit to single people under 35
  • the payment of housing benefit direct to the tenant

The Committee concluded that, taken as a whole, the welfare reforms of recent years have increased pressure on levels of homelessness.

The role of local authorities

Gatekeeping and support

Local authorities have a duty to secure accommodation for homeless households in priority need. For other homeless people, they only have a duty to provide advice and support which, the Committee found, varied considerably throughout the country.

Whilst recognising the pressures on local authorities, the Committee concluded that the Government should monitor local authorities in order to promote best practice, to identify authorities which are not meeting their statutory duties and implement a code of practice to which local authorities should adhere. The Homelessness Reduction Bill, which now has government support, should go some way to ensuring a more uniform level of advice and support throughout the country.

Councils placing households outside of their administrative boundaries

Whilst recognising the reasons for some councils placing households away from their home authority, the Committee considered this should only be done as a last resort; the families should be supported in their new areas; and the receiving authority should be fully informed

The need for accurate statistics on Homelessness

Accurate statistics on homelessness are vital if the issue is to be addressed.

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) publishes three sets of data on homelessness – statutory homelessness; prevention and relief; and rough sleeping. Statutory homelessness includes those households who are unintentionally homeless and in priority need. Prevention includes action by the local authority to prevent households becoming homeless; relief is where the household, on becoming homeless, has been helped to secure accommodation by the local council. The rough sleeping statistics are based on a snapshot of of the numbers sleeping rough on a particular night, ascertained either by a headcount or, more usually, an estimate by the local council.

The UK Statistics Authority assessed the DCLG data last December and concluded that only the statistics on statutory homelessness could be considered as national statistics; the two others were potentially misleading.

The Committee considered urgent action was needed to improve DCLG’s data collection so it more accurately reflected the actual scale of homelessness, including “hidden” homeless households. They resolved to monitor progress and review in 12 months.

Other issues identified by the Committee

The service user’s perspective

The Committee took considerable evidence on the perspective of the recipients of the homelessness service. They found that the main issues were:

  • Being treated with respect and compassion

At a time when they are extremely vulnerable, homeless households should be treated sensitively and not made to feel they are part of the problem.

  • Choice and autonomy

Households reported that they felt when using the homelessness service  that they had lost all measure of choice and autonomy

  • Quality of service

The Committee considered that the Government should review and reinforce the statutory Code of Practice to ensure it outlines clearly the levels of service that local authorities must provide and encourages regular training of staff to     ensure a sympathetic and sensitive service. Services should put users first with a compassionate approach that gives individuals an element of choice and autonomy.

Vulnerable groups and multiple complex needs

The Committee concluded that the homelessness services often dealt poorly with many vulnerable groups, particularly those who had more than one vulnerability. Such people frequently found their needs dealt with in isolation, even to the extent of being given conflicting appointment time. There was often a tendency for each group of professionals to deal with their specific area of expertise, rather than deal with whole person.

The Committee recommended focus on the individual and more cross-speciality working to ensure all vulnerabilities were addressed

Cross-Government working

A similar problem was identified in central government, where a lack of communication between departments or conflicting policies could work against the individual. A common approach to homelessness was needed.

Homelessness legislation

The Committee compared the approach to homelessness in England, where households not in priority need receive very little assistance in practice with the more recent legislation in Scotland and Wales.

The legislative approach in Scotland and Wales

In Scotland, priority need was abolished as from 31 December 2012, leaving Scottish local authorities with a duty to secure accommodation for all homeless households. As the legislation was passed in2003, councils had a 10 year lead in time to prepare.

In Wales, the 2014 Act placed a duty on local authorities to prevent households threatened with homelessness within 56 days (up from 28 days) from actually becoming homeless. For those households who are homeless when they seek assistance, councils must help secure accommodation for 56 days, but only have a continuing responsibility for households in priority need.

The Committee considered the Scottish approach was not appropriate for England because of the different housing markets. Having found support provided to homeless households not in priority need was at best variable in England, they welcomed the Welsh emphasis on prevention and linked this to their support for the Homelessness Reduction Bill.

The Homelessness Reduction Bill

The Homelessness Reduction Bill, now proceeding as a Private Member’s Bill but with government support, is designed to ensure that all households who are either homeless or threatened with homelessness within 56 days receive genuine help and advice from their local council. This is regardless of whether they are in priority need. Originally, the Bill would have given councils a duty to secure accommodation for 56 days, (the Welsh approach) but this was withdrawn as impractical in the England context. The current wording will impose a duty on councils to assist all homeless and potentially homeless households; the government has indicated it will provide additional to councils to cover their costs.

Comment

Policy changes

The under-supply of new homes has been identified for some years as being the root cause of the country’s continuing housing crisis. It fuels increases in housing costs – both rents and purchase price – which, in turn, leads to housing becoming increasingly unaffordable, contributing to overcrowding and, in the worst case scenario, homelessness. Ever higher rents place a huge burden on the country’s social security budget, which government seeks to address by cuts to benefits, rather than measures to control rents.

The recognition by the May government that the necessary increases in supply will not happen by the market responding to measures to increase home ownership alone is welcome and the emphasis on a cross tenure approach to the supply issue must be the way ahead. The target of one million new homes by 2020 is commendable – but we have had targets before. Delivery is key and a thorough assessment of the government’s plans must wait for the “detailed strategy” promised in the forthcoming White Paper.

Nothing so far is proposed to stem the potential loss of existing social housing stock through extending RTB to housing association tenants, to be funded by the sale of “higher value” council homes. Nor does there seem to be any indication of reviewing benefit cuts, which exacerbate affordability issues.

Homelessness

Affordability and housing shortages runs through the Select Committee’s recommendations on homelessness. A major increase in supply will, in the medium to long term, help greatly with stemming the rise in homelessness and promoting that increase across all tenures is also vital.

However, given the lack of any intention to review benefit changes, which are impacting on low income households being able to afford their homes, it does not seem that there are any short term answers to increasing homelessness. The new duty for councils to take steps to prevent people becoming homeless will only have meaning if there is somewhere available that they can afford; in many high pressured areas, this is not the case.

Related briefings: 
Housing and Planning Act 2016

Neighbourhood Planning update: Autumn 2016

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Inside Housing | The community taking on homelessness

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15 November 2016 7:30 am

The community taking on homelessness

Housing minister Gavin Barwell’s Croydon constituency has a homelessness crisis. Now members of the community are taking matters into their own hands to find a solution. Martin Hilditch reports

For use in Inside Housing, 18 November 2016

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It is the wrong side of midnight and the A&E department at Croydon University Hospital is a picture of well-lit gloom.

A handful of patients sit on plastic chairs, silently contemplating the dramas that have brought them here in the depths of the night. Their peace is broken by the entry of a small group of men and women, all wearing identical blue cagoules that proclaim their arrival from the European End Street Homelessness Campaign in big letters on the back. It has been a disappointing night for the volunteers so far. They have been charged with engaging with homeless people on the streets of Croydon as part of a massive project that is the first step of a campaign to end rough sleeping in the London borough.

Thus far, they have traipsed around parks, alleyways and lock-ups, shining torches into dark corners like Croydon’s answer to the Scooby-Doo gang. Despite visiting many of the borough’s well-known rough sleeping ‘hotspots’, after a couple of hours they have little to show for their efforts beyond tired legs. They have popped into the A&E department for a comfort break, but it is about to provide them with a depressing insight into the realities of life on the streets.

Major campaign

Moments after walking through the doors, the group are approached by a young man with an amputated foot, who has come to A&E for treatment.

“I’m homeless,” he says. He is accompanied by a friend, who is also homeless, and has made his own trip to the hospital in recent weeks. “I had pneumonia,” he says. “I had three blood transfusions.”

I was genuinely shocked by some of the data – really, really shocked. It should be a wakeup call to the citizens of Croydon.”

Lee Buss, director of operations, Evolve Housing + Support

They strike up a conversation with Deborah Ives, head of operations at homelessness charity Evolve Housing + Support, who is leading the team tonight. Elsewhere, a young woman who says she was homeless up until a couple of weeks ago approaches and has a chat with one of the volunteers, Mary Blamires. She is concerned society tends to think all homeless people are alcoholics. “She said: ‘I just wanted to let you know we are not’,” Ms Blamires reports afterwards.

It is all a powerful reminder that when housing professionals talk about the strain and cost that housing problems place on other services, or when homelessness professionals discuss tri-morbidity (the combination of mental and physical ill health and drug or alcohol misuse), this is the back story. To put it another way, if you are looking to find rough sleepers, an A&

For use in Inside Housing, 18 November 2016
A&E department in the middle of the night is a very good place to start.

The group is part of a bigger picture, however. Tonight, Croydon’s streets are covered with a patchwork quilt of volunteers. Their work is the start of the CR Zero 2020 campaign, which is led by Evolve, Crisis, Expert Link, Homeless Link and Thames Reach, to end rough sleeping in the borough. This sprang out of a wider European End Street Homelessness Campaign, which is being developed by the Building and Social Housing Foundation (BSHF) and FEANTSA, the European network of organisations working with homeless people.

The Croydon project’s ambition is clear. But what learning has it picked up already? And can it really succeed in eradicating rough sleeping?

Fast forward a few days, and some of the answers start to emerge. Over the course of the week, groups of volunteers speak to street homeless people in Croydon and get them to complete in-depth questionnaires. The aim is to build up the most detailed picture ever of the men and women living on the borough’s streets, which contain the eighth-highest number of people sleeping rough in the UK.

People sleeping rough on our streets is probably the most visible indicator of the profound housing problems we have got in this country that it is my job to try to tackle.

Gavin Barwell, MP for Croydon and housing minister

On a Saturday morning, just days after the last group of volunteers reports back, the information contained on the questionnaires has been analysed and the initial findings are to be presented to members of the Croydon community, including constituency MP and housing minister, Gavin Barwell.

The volunteers engaged with 64 homeless people over the course of the week (more than the 53 people recorded in the last street count); 42 of them completed a survey. Straight away, it is obvious the A&E department the volunteers visited earlier in the week has been a familiar destination for many of Croydon’s rough sleepers. In fact, half of the rough sleepers who completed a questionnaire had been in an A&E department in the past six months.

Collectively, there had been 53 attendances to A&E departments in that time, with 19 separate occasions in which people had been taken in by ambulance. There were a further 23 cases in which people had been in hospital as an in-patient.

For use in Inside Housing, 18 November 2016
Filling in a questionnaire

Grim events

The rest of the statistics make pretty grim reading, too. More than half of the respondents said they had been attacked or beaten up while on the streets. Weeks after this meeting, the Croydon Advertiser reported the story of a homeless man who has disappeared after a gang of “laughing thugs” attacked him in a doorway and set his belongings on fire.

And there are hundreds of other statistics, each with their own depressing back stories. Two of the six women who filled out forms were pregnant, 60% of the respondents had not been in permanent or sustainable housing for six months or more and 70% said there were no activities in their life that made them feel happy and fulfilled other than just surviving. Lee Buss, director of operations at Evolve Housing + Support, admits: “I was genuinely shocked by some of the data – really, really shocked. It should be a wakeup call to the citizens of Croydon.”

What of Mr Barwell, who says he has hotfooted it to the morning’s event “from my surgery, dealing with a number of housing issues”?

We are asking the entire community to work together to find a solution to chronic rough sleeping on the streets of Croydon.

Lee Buss, director of operations, Evolve Housing + Support

Croydon’s MP is certainly not shying away from the problem. “People sleeping rough on our streets is probably the most visible indicator of the profound housing problems we have got in this country that it is my job to try to tackle,” he tells the audience. He later adds: “I look forward to hearing what I can do, what the council can do and what the community can do to solve this great moral stain on our times.” He promises to resource any potential new responsibilities placed on councils as a result of the forthcoming Homelessness Reduction Bill.

The members of the Croydon community in attendance are not here to demand solutions from the housing minister, however. Instead, the aim is for local people, charities and businesses to take matters into their own hands.

For use in Inside Housing, 18 November 2016

Collective effort

“We are asking the entire community to work together to find a solution to chronic rough sleeping on the streets of Croydon,” Mr Buss explains. “Now we have the information, we need to do something with it. Croydon has the answers. I don’t mean Croydon the local authority – although they play a vital role. I mean us, everyone in this room.”

The next step is to form a “community solutions” focus group, whereby local people and organisations will work together to develop answers. This could involve asking existing services to work differently or developing new services or methods.

Only a few weeks later, Inside Housing drops in on the initial meeting of the group in a community centre. Members of local homelessness charities and drop-in centres have turned up, alongside local residents and council staff. Mark McPherson, director of strategy, partnership and innovation at Homeless Link and who is chairing, states that the purpose of the group is to “understand why people live on the streets”, “identify the things that stop them getting off the streets” and “find solutions”.

It might be that we don’t get some of those people in the room… But we can come up with an ask for them.”

Mark McPherson, director of strategy, partnership and innovation, Homeless Link

The group begins by working in teams to identify points of contact and sources of help for homeless people in the borough. A chart of faith groups, night shelters and drop-in centres emerges. Over the next few weeks the information will be pulled together into a “systems map”. The next step will be to pinpoint barriers in the system and “who do we have to influence to remove them”.

“It might be that we don’t get some of those people in the room,” Mr McPherson says. “But we can come up with an ask for them.” He reminds the attendees that all solutions have to be “about housing” – “the solutions must mean they are no longer living on the streets”.

It is early days yet, but the mood in the room is optimistic. Rough sleeping might be on the rise nationally, but the group here today are determined they can reverse the trend and, indeed, eradicate it in Croydon by 2020. So far they have attracted more than 100 volunteers, had the ear of the housing minister and collected more detail about the borough’s homeless population than anyone before. They are likely to have plenty of learning to pass on to the housing sector – and do not bet against them achieving the seemingly impossible while they are at it.

Campaign origins

The work in Croydon to end homelessness can trace its roots back to the 100,000 Homes campaign in the USA.

This was a national grassroots movement working to find and permanently house 100,000 of the most vulnerable homeless people in the nation – with communities taking the lead. It won a World Habitat Award, organised by the Building and Social Housing Foundation (BSHF), in 2013.

David Ireland, director of the BSHF, says after the award win “there was a real interest in seeing if we could use some of the methods and adapt them into Europe”. This led to the birth of the European End Street Homelessness Campaign, co-ordinated by BSHF. Identical questionnaires have been filled out by homeless people in various cities, such as Barcelona and Valencia, and Croydon is the latest area to launch its own campaign.

Inside Housing launches homelessness campaign

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14 November 2016 

Inside Housing launches homelessness campaign

 

Inside Housing has launched a campaign to tackle rough sleeping to mark this week’s 50th anniversary of the landmark film Cathy Come Home.

The Cathy at 50 campaign will raise awareness and promote innovative practice to help end rough sleeping. We will also be launching a competition – Reel Homes – to produce a film about homelessness or the housing crisis and deliver a Cathy Come Home for the 21st century.

As part of the campaign, Inside Housing will be running in-depth investigations and analysis every day this week, examining the current homelessness landscape and providing ideas for the government and the housing sector about how to reduce the currently soaring levels of rough sleeping.

Cathy at 50 will call for some practical action too. It asks councils, housing providers and the government to look at adopting a Housing First approach to tackle rough sleeping.

The model, which involves providing permanent housing backed up by tailored support, appears to have been successful in tackling rough sleeping in other countries and the campaign argues it should be rolled out more widely in the UK. To kick things off, today our research looks at the impact Housing First has had in Finland and Canada.

The campaign is also calling on the Government to commit to ending rough sleeping, and halve it by 2020 as a staging post.

Cathy at 50 campaign aims:

  • To launch a film competition to produce a finished work about homelessness or the impact of the housing crisis.
  • A week of detailed research and stories from the frontline to mark the 50th anniversary of Cathy Come Home and promote a wider debate about the current homelessness crisis.
  • Calls for councils to explore Housing First as a default option for long-term rough sleepers and commission Housing First schemes. Calls for housing associations to identify additional stock for Housing First schemes and for government to support five Housing First projects, collect evidence and distribute best practice.
  • Calls for the government to commit to ending rough sleeping, and to halve rough sleeping by 2020 as the first step to achieving this.

Senior sector figures have already lent their support to the campaign.

Terrie Alafat, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH), said: “The 50th anniversary of Cathy Come Home is a chance to reflect on an issue which has worsened steadily since 2010.”

Ms Alafat added that the current Homelessness Reduction Bill represents a historic opportunity to tackle the issue, but as well as the new law the Government “needs to commit to a strategy on homelessness which tackles the root causes and gives more support to local authorities”.

She added that the CIH supports Housing First “as part of a wider effort to tackle homelessness”.

Jeremy Swain, chief executive of homelessness charity Thames Reach, said that it has “long advocated the mainstreaming of the Housing First model in the UK to assist long-term rough sleepers with multiple needs and we are pleased to be able to give our strong backing to the Inside Housing campaign that seeks to achieve this.”

He added: “There are many approaches to helping homeless people which sound fine but cannot demonstrate that they successfully help people to escape homelessness. In contrast, the Housing First model has been scrutinised and evaluated very carefully and has a proven track record in helping people come off the street, stay housed and get their lives back. In short: Housing First works and we need more of it.”

St Mungo’s | #StopTheScandal

St Mungo's logo

 

 

I just asked our Prime Minister and his government to Stop the Scandal of people with mental ill-health being stuck sleeping rough at www.mungos.org/stopthescandal

Not only is rough sleeping on the rise in the UK, but 4 in 10 people sleeping rough have a mental health problem, often with no support and no way home.

Worse still, St Mungo’s research shows that some people end up sleeping rough soon after being discharged from mental health hospitals and people with mental health problems are 50 per cent more likely to end up sleeping rough for more than a year, a dangerous situation that ruins lives.

It’s not right that anyone has to sleep rough on our streets – and it’s nothing short of a scandal that people with mental health problems are being let down when they need help the most.

Please join me to call on our Prime Minister to Stop the Scandal by signing this letter demanding urgent action today.

stop-scandal-960px

Prime Minister
10 Downing Street
London SW1A 2AA

Dear Prime Minister

Will you stop the scandal of people with mental health problems left sleeping rough?

It’s not right that anyone should be without a home, and it’s nothing short of a national scandal that people with mental health problems are stuck sleeping rough.

We urge you to stop this scandal by leading a new, ambitious national rough sleeping strategy to deliver:

  • mental health assessments and professional support to people on the street
  • specialist supported housing to aid recovery
  • the right support upon discharge so people don’t end up sleeping rough after leaving mental health hospitals, and
  • improvements to homelessness legislation to prevent more rough sleeping.

Government statistics continue to show an alarming rise in rough sleeping in England, and new research from homelessness charity St Mungo’s reveals that 4 in 10 people who sleep rough have a mental health problem, rising to over half of rough sleepers from the UK.

The research also exposes how quickly someone’s mental health can deteriorate when they are sleeping on the street. What’s more, people with a mental health problem are around 50 per cent more likely to have spent over a year on the streets than others sleeping rough.

We believe this requires urgent attention from across government and the NHS. With the right support and routes off the street, people can look after their mental health and rebuild their lives.

Better still, the right mental health services can prevent people from sleeping rough in the first place. But right now, only 26 per cent of homelessness outreach workers say people sleeping rough are able to access the mental health services they need.

Rough sleeping is dangerous and ruins lives. People with mental health problems are particularly at risk. Please ensure that the most vulnerable in our society are not forgotten about.

Yours sincerely,

Paul Bull

Welfare Conditionality | First wave research findings

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12 May 2016

First wave research findings

Today we launch the first wave findings from our ongoing study. Below is the overview, summarising our key first wave findings on the effects and ethics of welfare conditionality. It draws on data from interviews with 52 policy stakeholders, 27 focus groups conducted with practitioners, and 480 ‘wave a’ qualitative longitudinal interviews with with nine groups of welfare service users in England and Scotland.

Overview

Below are nine first wave findings papers covering each of our study’s policy areas in more detail.

First wave findings: anti-social behaviour

First wave findings: disabled people

First wave findings: homelessness

First wave findings: jobseekers

First wave findings: lone parents

First wave findings: migrants

First wave findings: offenders

First wave findings: social tenants

First wave findings: Universal Credit

Further context and background on the study areas is available in our context and briefing papers.

 

Labour Press | “Osborne must use the Budget to turn round spiralling homelessness figures”

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13 March 2016

Labour warn Osborne must use the Budget to turn round spiralling homelessness figures

Ahead of the Budget on Wednesday Labour has released new figures showing that on current trends the number of homeless families is set to reach almost 400,000 by 2020.

Headline ‘statutory homelessness’ statistics only capture those people who fall into a small number of so-called ‘priority need’ groups containing the most vulnerable applicants like pregnant women and young people leaving care. Along with charities and academics, Labour has argued that a much better measure also includes ‘prevention and relief’ cases where councils step in to stop families becoming homeless.

This more comprehensive measure reveals that homelessness rose to 275,000 families last year, up 75,000 from 2010, and is set to hit 369,000 by 2020 on current trends.

This is in addition to rough sleeping figures which records people sleeping on the streets and has doubled in the last five years.

This rise can be traced directly to decisions taken by George Osborne in previous Budgets which have led to big cuts in housing support over the last five years, including:

·         cuts to housing benefit support worth over £5bn since 2010 – 13 separate cuts to housing benefit over the last five years, including the bedroom tax and breaking the link between private rented sector housing benefit and private rents;

·         cuts to ‘supporting people’ funding for homelessness services – the National Audit Office have revealed that vital funding for homelessness services fell by 45 per cent between 2010 and 2015;

·         soaring private rents – averaging over £1600 extra each year than in 2010; and

·         the loss of affordable homes – with over 100,000 fewer council homes than in 2010.

Without a change of direction from George Osborne, cuts in this Parliament are set to hit housing services and support on an even bigger scale:

·         the further impact of cuts to housing benefit is set to total almost £11bn between 2015 and 2020, plus a new cap on housing benefit announced in the Autumn Statement which homelessness organisations say will lead to the mass closure of their services;

·         further cuts to local authority support meaning homelessness services unable to cope – the IFS calculate further real terms cuts of around 7 per cent to council budgets over the next five years;

·         private rent rises are set to continue with Savills predict an inflation-busting 16.5 per cent increase in average rents over the next five years; and

·         A further loss of 300,000 social rented homes predicted over the next five years.

Commenting, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Housing and Planning John Healey MP said:

“Rising homeless figures carry the starkest warning for the Chancellor ahead of the Budget.

“This spiralling scale of homelessness shames us all when Britain is one of the richest countries in the world. It is a test of our basic humanity. It should shake the Chancellor from his complacency about the growing homeless crisis and shock him into action.

“The homeless figures hide personal stories of hurt and hopelessness; thousands of people whose ordinary lives have fallen apart from illness, debt, family break-up, addiction or redundancy.

“His failure to control housing costs and crude cuts to housing support over the last five years are making the problem much worse. The Government have no long-term housing plan for the country.

“George Osborne must use the Budget this week to stop the upward spiral of homelessness which is being driven by the government’s own housing policy failures.

“He must now re-think the multi-billion pound cuts to housing and homelessness support which are set to bite during this Parliament, as well as strengthening the law to help prevent homelessness happening in the first place as Labour has done in Wales.”

ENDS

Notes

·         The wider measure of homelessness used here – including homelessness ‘prevention and relief’ cases as well as ‘statutory homeless’ acceptances – was developed and is used by leading housing academics in the annual ‘Homelessness Monitor’ commissioned by Crisis and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation :http://www.crisis.org.uk/data/files/publications/Homelessness_Monitor_England_2016_FINAL_(V12).pdf.

·         Between 2009/10 and 2014/15 the average annual increase in this wider measure of homelessness was 6%. If the rate of increase in the last five years continued over the next five years this would mean 369,124 homelessness cases by 2019/20.

Source: DCLG statutory homelessness and homelessness prevention and relief statistics: 2009/10 – 2014/15. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/live-tables-on-homelessness

·         In addition, the latest rough sleeping figures collected in Autumn 2015 show that the number of people sleeping on England’s streets has doubled since 2010 with 3,659 people recorded sleeping rough on one night: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/rough-sleeping-in-england-autumn-2015.

·         Figures on housing benefit cuts for the last Parliament, and planned over the next were supplied by the House of Commons Library.

·         The National Audit Office have revealed that cuts to supporting people funding for homelessness services averaged 455.3% between 2010/11 and 2014/15:https://www.nao.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Impact-of-funding-reductions-on-local-authorities.pdf.

·         Average private market rents were £1,608 a year more expensive in January 2016 than at the same point in 2010, according the LSL rental index:http://www.lslps.co.uk/documents/buy_to_let_index_feb16.pdf.

·         There were 117,000 fewer council homes in England in 2014 than in 2010:https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/423176/LT_104.xls

·         IFS figures suggest cuts to local authority budgets of around 7% over the next five years:http://www.ifs.org.uk/publications/8095.

·         Savills have predicted UK-wide increase in rents of 16.5% over the next five years:http://www.savills.co.uk/research/uk/residential-research/forecast-pages/mainstream-rental-values.aspx

·         The Chartered Institute of Housing have said that as many as 300,000 homes for social rent could be lost over the next five years: http://home.bt.com/news/uk-news/housing-boss-says-england-could-lose-300000-socially-rented-homes-by-2020-11364045175253

·         More information on the measure the Welsh Government have taken on homelessness are available here: http://gov.wales/topics/housing-and-regeneration/legislation/housing-act/specific-elements/homelessness/?lang=en.

 

St Mungo’s | Stop The Scandal

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4 in 10 people sleeping rough are struggling with a mental health problem, often with no support and no way home.

Like Patrick, who was stuck sleeping rough for 18 years until he was offered mental health support and a safe place to stay which helped him to rebuild his life. But for thousands of people, the support never comes.

St Mungo’s is calling on people to sign their letter and call on Prime Minister David Cameron to Stop the Scandal of people with mental health problems left sleeping rough.

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Prime Minister David Cameron
10 Downing Street
London SW1A 2AA

Dear Prime Minister David Cameron,

Will you stop the scandal of people with mental health problems left sleeping rough?

It’s not right that anyone should be without a home, and it’s nothing short of a national scandal that people with mental health problems are stuck sleeping rough.

We urge you to stop this scandal by leading a new, ambitious national rough sleeping strategy to deliver:

  • mental health assessments and professional support to people on the street,
  • specialist supported housing to aid recovery
  • the right support upon discharge so people don’t end up sleeping rough after leaving mental health hospitals, and
  • improvements to homelessness legislation to prevent more rough sleeping.

Government statistics continue to show an alarming rise in rough sleeping in England, and new research from homelessness charity St Mungo’s reveals that 4 in 10 people who sleep rough have a mental health problem, rising to over half of rough sleepers from the UK.

The research also exposes how quickly someone’s mental health can deteriorate when they are sleeping on the street. What’s more, people with a mental health problem are around 50 per cent more likely to have spent over a year on the streets than others sleeping rough.

We believe this requires urgent attention from across government and the NHS. With the right support and routes off the street, people can look after their mental health and rebuild their lives.

Government statistics continue to show an alarming rise in rough sleeping in England, and new research from homelessness charity St Mungo’s reveals that 4 in 10 people who sleep rough have a mental health problem, rising to over half of rough sleepers from the UK.

The research also exposes how quickly someone’s mental health can deteriorate when they are sleeping on the street. What’s more, people with a mental health problem are around 50 per cent more likely to have spent over a year on the streets than others sleeping rough.

We believe this requires urgent attention from across government and the NHS. With the right support and routes off the street, people can look after their mental health and rebuild their lives.

Paul Bull