Poverty and Inequality

20.12.17

Government’s ‘light touch’ failed to address ‘shameful’ homelessness

The Department for Communities and Local Government’s attitude to reducing homelessness has been “unacceptably complacent,” the Public Accounts Committee has said.

In a report published this week, the committee has argued that the department has not shown enough urgency in addressing the growing crisis of homelessness across England.

At any one time there are 9,100 people sleeping on the streets, and over 78,000 households, including over 120,000 children, are housed in temporary accommodation, which can often be in very poor conditions.

Since 2010, the number of households in temporary accommodation has risen by more than 60%, and people sleeping rough have increased by over 134%. These figures do not include the “hidden homeless,” housed by family and friends.

The average rough sleeper dies before they reach the age of 50, and children in long-term temporary accommodation miss more schooling than their peers.

Yet, according to the committee, the department has only taken “limited action” to tackle the growing problem, and added that the “light touch” it has used to work with the local authorities to address the problem has “clearly failed.”

It argued that the department does not have a proper understanding of homeless people, having not modelled the costs and causes of homelessness recently, or measured the extent of “hidden homelessness.”

Whilst the committee agrees that the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 will “no doubt help,” it has criticised the department for placing too great a reliance on it, as it says it needs to be matched by a “renewed focus across government on tackling the twin issues of both the supply and affordability of decent housing, which underlie the causes of homelessness.”

Funding was announced in the Autumn Budget to allow local authorities to increase the supply of new homes, but the report says that the department plans to target this funding at local authorities that are ready to spend the money quickly, as opposed to those in areas with the most acute shortage of housing, which could mean that local authorities with housing need but not at the same position of readiness may miss out.

Committee chair, Meg Hillier, called the state of homelessness in England “shameful.”

“As we approach Christmas there are thousands of children in temporary accommodation—a salutary reminder of the human cost of policy failure,” she said.

She argued that government decisions are “not made in a vacuum” and said that the evidence presented by organisations that work with homeless people should “serve as a wake-up call.”

Hillier continued: “The government must do more to understand and measure the real-world costs and causes of homelessness and put in place the joined-up strategy that is so desperately needed.

“That means properly addressing the shortage of realistic housing options for those at risk of homelessness or already in temporary accommodation. More fundamentally, it means getting a grip on the market’s failure to provide genuinely affordable homes, both to rent and to buy.”

She added that the committee does not share the government’s faith in the “cure-all potential” of the Homelessness Reduction Act.

She concluded: “There are practical steps it can take now—for example, targeting financial support on local authorities with acute shortages of suitable housing, rather than those councils which are simply ready to spend—that would make a real difference to people’s lives.

“We urge it to respond positively and swiftly to the recommendations set out in our Report.”

Top image: Trowbridge Estate

Have you got a story to tell? Would you like to become a PSE columnist? If so, click here

Comments

There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment

 

related

public sector executive tv

more videos >

latest public sector news

Bill for cash-strapped council’s usage of ring-fenced money could be up to £16m

21/05/2018Bill for cash-strapped council’s usage of ring-fenced money could be up to £16m

 A new investigation into the usage of public funds by Northamptonshire County Council could levy the authority with a £16m grant bill... more >
Local authority’s enhanced powers ‘ripe for misuse’ for convicting hundreds of homeless, new figures show

21/05/2018Local authority’s enhanced powers ‘ripe for misuse’ for convicting hundreds of homeless, new figures show

People sleeping rough on Britain’s streets have been fined, given criminal records, or even imprisoned due to enhanced council powers to re... more >
Council calls on Whitehall to fix ‘broken’ funding system, rejects claims of bankruptcy

21/05/2018Council calls on Whitehall to fix ‘broken’ funding system, rejects claims of bankruptcy

A Conservative-controlled council has called on the government to sort out its “broken” funding system, and claimed it was not going ... more >

editor's comment

25/10/2017Take a moment to celebrate

Devolution, restructuring and widespread service reform: from a journalist’s perspective, it’s never been a more exciting time to report on the public sector. That’s why I could not be more thrilled to be taking over the reins at PSE at this key juncture. There could not be a feature that more perfectly encapsulates this... read more >

last word

The importance of openness after Grenfell

The importance of openness after Grenfell

Following the recent Grenfell Tower tragedy, Lord Porter, chairman of the LGA, argues that if the public are going to have faith in the safety testing process then everything must be out in the o... more > more last word articles >
Bill for cash-strapped council’s usage of ring-fenced money could be up to £16m

21/05/2018Bill for cash-strapped council’s usage of ring-fenced money could be up to £16m

 A new investigation into the usage of public funds by Northamptonshire County Council could levy the authority with a £16m grant bill after its apparent usage of ring-fenced cash on o... more >
Local authority’s enhanced powers ‘ripe for misuse’ for convicting hundreds of homeless, new figures show

21/05/2018Local authority’s enhanced powers ‘ripe for misuse’ for convicting hundreds of homeless, new figures show

People sleeping rough on Britain’s streets have been fined, given criminal records, or even imprisoned due to enhanced council powers to reduce homelessness. New figures obtained in a ... more >

the raven's daily blog

The complexities of Brexit and the hunt for exceptional data scientists

16/04/2018The complexities of Brexit and the hunt for exceptional data scientists

Christopher Gallagher, public sector – SAS, says it’s imperative that organisations have the most experienced data scientists at hand. The Civil Service is feeling immense Brexit stress. Making the right decisions, analysing the ‘best interests’ of the nation as a whole, as well as discrete segments of the populati... more >
read more blog posts from 'the raven' >

comment

The digital journey so far

08/05/2018The digital journey so far

Michael Sage, digital services group manager at Chelmsford City Council, outlines the authority’s journey towards becoming digitally indepe... more >
Equipping the cyber security gatekeepers

08/05/2018Equipping the cyber security gatekeepers

With the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) just around the corner, cyber security is on the lips of the whole public sector – but P... more >
The hydrogen revolution

08/05/2018The hydrogen revolution

PSE’s Josh Mines takes a look at an innovative scheme in Sheffield that will see some of the first hydrogen-fuelled vans begin work in the ... more >
Energy efficiency: not just a matter of more money

30/04/2018Energy efficiency: not just a matter of more money

David Reilly, head of cities & regions at the Carbon Trust, reports on the findings from this year’s Low Carbon Cities Conference. ... more >

interviews

GDPR: The public sector scarecrow

03/04/2018GDPR: The public sector scarecrow

SPONSORED INTERVIEW PSE’s Josh Mines chats to Martin de Martini, CIO of Y Soft, about what the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)... more >
Data at the heart of digital transformation

03/04/2018Data at the heart of digital transformation

SPONSORED INTERVIEW Grant Caley, UK & Ireland chief technologist at NetApp, speaks to PSE’s Luana Salles about the benefits of movin... more >
Keeping London safe

05/03/2018Keeping London safe

Theo Blackwell, London’s first-ever chief digital officer (CDO), speaks to PSE’s Luana Salles about the role he plays in ensuring the... more >
BIM: Digitising the public sector

19/02/2018BIM: Digitising the public sector

PSE’s Josh Mines talks to Stephen Crompton, CTO at GroupBC, and Stuart Bell, the company’s sales and marketing director, about how Bu... more >

public sector focus

View all News