Latest Public Sector News

14.09.16

Adding more homelessness duties to councils ‘not the answer’, warns Lord Porter

Councils have come out against a new Bill intended to reduce homelessness, saying it will impose new duties on them without tackling the causes of the problem.

The Homelessness Reduction Bill was introduced as a Private Members’ Bill by Bob Blackman MP, a member of the Communities and Local Government Committee (CLGC), after the committee published a report arguing that councils are failing to help homeless people.

The Bill will introduce statutory monitoring for council housing services to ensure they meet the requirements of a revised Code of Guidance.

But Lord Porter, chair of the LGA, said: “Simply adding more duties to councils is not the answer to tackling homelessness. The only viable long-term solutions are increasing the availability of suitable affordable housing and addressing other underlying causes of homelessness.

“Councils want to help everyone at risk of homelessness and to support those who are homeless into accommodation as soon as possible. However, legislation alone will not resolve homelessness – the causes are complex and range from the economic and social to the personal.”

Making sure mental health funding meets people in need and giving councils the power to build more affordable housing would be a better way of tackling homelessness, he added.

Unusually, the CLGC is both sponsoring the Bill and conducting an inquiry to examine it.

Local government minister Marcus Jones told the inquiry today that the department will publish an estimate of the Bill’s cost in the next two weeks.

When asked whether a decision had been made on whether the new housing benefit cap will apply to supported accommodation, Jones said: “We’ve done a significant amount of work. We’ve spoken to many stakeholders and organisations, and we’re working very closely with the DWP in terms of the solution that we said we’d come forward with.

“I would expect that he would come forward with a proposal and further information very shortly.”

Prime minister Theresa May also said last week that the government is “working on” exempting women’s shelters from the cap.

(Image c. Trowbridge Estate)

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