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

Council forced to apologise after telling ‘intimidating’ football fans they were unwelcome

16/08/2018Council forced to apologise after telling ‘intimidating’ football fans they were unwelcome

A Lancashire council has apologised after sending a letter that stated football fans “will no longer be welcome” in the town centre f... more >
Northamptonshire to sell education centre ahead of plans for unitary council shake-up

16/08/2018Northamptonshire to sell education centre ahead of plans for unitary council shake-up

Northamptonshire County Council’s cabinet has agreed to sell its Longtown Outdoor Education Centre in an attempt to tackle a £70m bud... more >
Council halts non-urgent spending in bid to tackle ‘significant financial challenges’

16/08/2018Council halts non-urgent spending in bid to tackle ‘significant financial challenges’

Torbay Council has announced an immediate moratorium on spending as it tries to deal with financial trouble and a predicted £2.8m overspend... 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 >
Council forced to apologise after telling ‘intimidating’ football fans they were unwelcome

16/08/2018Council forced to apologise after telling ‘intimidating’ football fans they were unwelcome

A Lancashire council has apologised after sending a letter that stated football fans “will no longer be welcome” in the town centre for daytime matches. In a letter sent to Sheff... more >
Northamptonshire to sell education centre ahead of plans for unitary council shake-up

16/08/2018Northamptonshire to sell education centre ahead of plans for unitary council shake-up

Northamptonshire County Council’s cabinet has agreed to sell its Longtown Outdoor Education Centre in an attempt to tackle a £70m budget shortfall, just a day before a report on the f... more >

the raven's daily blog

Don’t horse around! Council finds new home for house-bound pony

13/08/2018Don’t horse around! Council finds new home for house-bound pony

A council that took four years in a legal wrangle to remove a pony from an Isle of Lewis house may have found the four-legged beast a new home. Western Isles council removed Grey Lady Too – a Connemara pony that was taken into the home by pensioner Stephanie Noble on Christmas Eve in 2011 – from its residence in 2014 because i... more >
read more blog posts from 'the raven' >

comment

A new era of opportunity for the north

13/08/2018A new era of opportunity for the north

It’s time to stop seeing transport investment as a nice-to-have: it’s a cut-through catalyst for growth in sectors across the north. ... more >
Council mergers: little gain, less democratic

13/08/2018Council mergers: little gain, less democratic

Dr Linze Schaap, associate professor at the Tilburg Centre for Regional Law and Governance, and Dr Niels Karsten, assistant professor at the Tilb... more >
Creating a council cloud-first approach

13/08/2018Creating a council cloud-first approach

Georgina Maratheftis, programme manager for local government at techUK, makes the case for wider adoption of cloud technology by local authoritie... more >
The strength of districts

13/08/2018The strength of districts

Cllr Isobel Darby, member lead for quality of life at the District Councils’ Network (DCN) and leader of Chiltern District Council, shares ... more >

interviews

Modern policing: the future is bright

06/08/2018Modern policing: the future is bright

SPONSORED INTERVIEW The public sector, and policing in particular, has often been criticised as being slow to adapt to change. But now, says L... more >
Michael King: Time for Ombudsman reform

06/08/2018Michael King: Time for Ombudsman reform

Michael King first joined the Local Government Ombudsman service back in 2004 as deputy ombudsman. At the start of 2017, he was appointed as the ... more >
Helping a city understand itself

06/08/2018Helping a city understand itself

SPONSORED INTERVIEW The urban landscape is changing. How can local authorities keep up with citizen behaviour? Stephen Leece, managing directo... 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 >

public sector focus

View all News