Branch Secretary :

Homeless reduction act not funded

Minister: "I dont know why rough sleeper numbers are up"


The new Homelessness Reduction Act comes in to force on April 3rd imposing new duties on local authorities to assist anyone who is homeless.  That sounds very good but unfortunately the government have not adequately funded local authorities to respond and have done nothing to address the root causes of rising homelessness such as: spiralling rents – they reject rent control and are running down social housing, welfare ‘reforms’- read benefit cuts, low pay and insecure work.



The Homelessness Minister Heather Wheeler recently announced: “I don’t know why rough sleeper numbers are up.”  But she was apparently clear that they were not connected with council or welfare cuts.  In a radio interview her boss, Savid Javid, made the startling admission – from a Tory minister – that benefit cuts ‘may well’ have led to an increase in rough sleeping.


The extra responsibilities placed on local authorities come at a time of massive cuts; expressions of concern from ministers have to be seen in the context of policies that exacerbate the causes of the rises in homelessness and rough sleeping.


Rough sleeping numbers up 169%; hostel bedspaces down


Since 2011, the numbers of households in temporary accommodation have risen by 60%, while official rough sleeping figures are up 169% since 2010.  According to research by Homeless Link , there were 36,540 bed spaces for single homeless people in England in 2015, 7,115 fewer than in 2010 – a reduction of 18%.


Last weeks announcement of a £30 million rough sleeping fund must be seen in the context of massive cuts and Jon Sparkes of Crisis was right to say that, “without further detail of an equally ambitious offer of a home and tailored support for every rough sleeper across the country, it falls short of what’s required to truly end rough sleeping.”  He goes on to say, “we must acknowledge that the continued rise in rough sleeping is a result of welfare cuts, decline in social housing, soaring private rents and chronically underfunded support services. Until we do we will only be tackling the symptoms and not the causes.” 


Unrealistic workloads


In a recent TV programme a Tory MP spent time on the street in London and found “The St Mungo’s staff's good humour is matched only by their compassion and kindness: indeed, when I discharge myself, the centre’s manager follows me into the street and tells me I do not need “to do it on your own”, and that I should come back so that they could help me.”  But he also gives a sense of the scarce resources and the scale of the problem.


Unite reps report high stress levels and unrealistic workloads among front line homelessness workers along with real hardship and housing need due to low pay.  They also report that management in the sector increasingly adopt what they see as a commercial approach undercutting each other to win contracts at the expense of the service recieved by homless people and are prepared to go along with unprofessional and even illegal practices - for example St Mungos collaboration with deportation of EU citizens, now found to be illegal.  In this context it has never been more important for Unite and the Labour and trade union movement to fight for decent services and polices that address the causes of homlessness.


Unite housing workers call for:


No local authority cuts


A minumum wage of at least £10 per hour


Emergency increase in funding for homelessness services


A mass programme of council house building


Robust rent control and secure tenure in the private rented sector


See our recent submission to the Labour Party review of social housing policy here


Paul Kershaw


Posted 4 April 2018


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