Branch Secretary :

Deaths of homeless people rise by 80% over last two years



Result of cuts


The number of people dying while homeless has risen by a staggering 80% over the last two years as cuts to housing, mental and health and addiction services take their toll. The Museum of Homelessness made over three hundred freedom of information requests in order to uncover these figures.


These additional deaths are a clear result of government policy and local authorities which meekly implement the cuts. As we have warned, unless funding is greatly increased the problem is set grow still worse.



Matt Turtle of the Museum of Homelessness said: “Too many people are dying in dangerous accommodation run by unregulated landlords and funded by the taxpayer. Our research suggests over 90% of deaths in the cases where we know of a person’s situation occurred after they were placed in insecure accommodation.


Funding negligent landlords


These often occur in taxpayer funded hostels which are exempt from the price cap local authorities apply to shared accommodation as they are meant to provide people experiencing homelessness with care as well as safe place to live temporarily. But many fail to meet their most basic obligations.


The companies managing exempt accommodation now receive over £800 million a year from the public purse. The government needs to urgently regulate these businesses – providing proper oversight so people are protected, and our taxes stop funding negligent landlords.”


Councils in England have warned that the cost of homelessness services will increase by 27.2% in the next three years. The Conservative led Local Government Association (LGA) say there are "extra cost pressures of almost £8bn".  That is what is needed to maintain the current inadequate service level but there are no plans from government to match this need.


Cut to Discretionary Housing Payment


Far from responding positively to the crisis the government recently announced a £40 million cut in funding for Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP).  The homelessness charity Crisis rightly warns “tens of thousands of people falling into arrears and facing eviction as people struggle to stay afloat”. DHP is used to prevent homelessness.


The Unite housing workers branch organises workers in many homelessness agencies and we will step up our campaign against cuts to homelessness services and the ‘hostile environment’ for migrants which makes this crisis worse.


We also underline to call on Labour councils by Unite to refuse to pass on cuts and to set genuine ‘needs budgets.’


As Unite General Secretary Sharon Graham has written,


We know that central government is not giving councils the money they need. But it is not enough for councillors to shrug their shoulders and pass the buck. Local authorities can agree balanced, legal budgets that do not make cuts. It is perfectly possible for them to use their reserves and borrowing powers to plug gaps while at the same time campaigning for adequate central government funding to safeguard council services. I would like to see my union at the heart of integrated campaigns inside communities, fighting for better services and giving council workers the proper pay rise they deserve (LocalGov 24 June 2021).


We repeat our call on council candidates to contact us if they support Unite policy on cuts – we are keen to campaign with any candidates opposing cuts.


Two years ago, the government hired hotels and hostels as part of the ‘everyone in’ programme. It had faults, but it demonstrated that adequate funding can get people off the street. That is something to fight for.


Paul Kershaw Chair Unite housing workers


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