The Government today back a revolution in how homeless people are supported in England, which will rip up the current rules that penalise single men and women.
The Homelessness Reduction Bill - a Private Members’ Bill introduced by my Conservative colleague Bob Blackman - will rewrite homelessness legislation, ensuring that more people get the help they need.
Current rules, which date back to 1977, stipulate that councils are only required to secure accommodation for those who are unintentionally homeless and in ‘priority need’ - pregnant women, those with children and various categories of vulnerable people. Single people who are not deemed vulnerable slip through the net. Of the 29,790 applications for assistance that English councils received between April and June 2016, only 51% were accepted as unintentionally homeless and in priority need.
Bob’s Bill will place new duties on councils to intervene earlier to take reasonable steps to prevent anyone threatened with homelessness from becoming homeless and, where they become homeless, to relieve that homelessness.
As Housing Minister, I was proud to be in the House of Commons today to back the Bill. The number of people accepted as homeless (ie unintentionally homeless and in priority need) is down by 58% from 2003/4 peak, but it is increasing again and as noted above this statistic doesn’t tell the full story in any case. The truth is one person without a home is one too many.
My department has protected homelessness prevention funding that goes to local councils, which will reach £315 million by 2020. It has also increased funding for Government homelessness programmes to £139 million over the course of this Parliament. Last week, we announced £40 million of funding including:
- a new £10 million rough sleeping prevention fund to help individuals who might be struggling to get by from ending up on the street. This will also provide rapid and targeted interventions for new rough sleepers, such as helping them to access employment and education opportunities;
- £20 million for local councils to trial new initiatives, focusing on prevention at an earlier stage. The councils concerned will work with a wider group of at risk people to help them before they reach crisis point; and
- a £10 million Social Impact Bond programme to help long-term rough sleepers by addressing their underlying problems such as poor mental health or substance abuse and thereby help get them off, and stop them returning to, the streets.
We will continue to work with councils, local communities and the excellent charities that work in this area to try to end the scourge of homelessness. The change in the law we discussed today is a big step in the right direction.