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18.01.17

Councils welcome £48m homelessness provision but remain cautious

Councils have been awarded an extra £48m of funding to help expand homeless provision, but they have already warned that this may prove insufficient to tackle the problem.

The funding announced by the government aims to help councils meet the costs of measures which are likely to be introduced under Conservative MP Bob Blackman’s Homelessness Reduction Bill, which would give single people the rights currently given to families threatened with homelessness.

If passed, the Homelessness Reduction Bill would require councils to help all eligible people find secure accommodation for 56 days before they become homeless or for a further 56 days if they are already homeless.

Responding to the funding announcement, Mr Blackman said: “This funding package is a strong demonstration that the government is serious about helping people at risk of homelessness and I very much welcome this commitment.

“Should my Bill succeed, there will inevitably a transitional period as councils begin to manage their new duties and I believe this support will give them the best possible head start to improve outcomes long term.”

The announcement was made by the local government minister Marcus Jones, who said that the extra funding would enable councils to “hit the ground running”.

While the Bill has been widely praised, with communities secretary Sajid Javid saying that it will make “real changes” to how councils tackle homelessness, local authorities are more cautious about the funding offered, warning that the £48m is based on “assumptions that are difficult to predict”.

It is estimated that the Bill will cost councils £35.4m in 2017-18 and £12.1m in 2018-19, with nothing to pay in 2019-20.

“Councils have concerns that initial costings will inevitably be based on assumptions that are difficult to predict,” said Lord Porter, chairman of the LGA.

“For example, it is impossible to know how many people will come forward to access the new duties, what the impact of the Bill will be on different groups over time, and therefore the funding councils need to deliver duties that reduce homelessness.”

The LGA has asked the government to commit to reviewing the Bill’s impact in 2019-20 to “assess its actual impact” and ensure that councils are equipped to meet its ambitions.

Lord Porter also asked the government to support councils in tackling the wider factors which are leading to homelessness, such as a lack of affordable housing and welfare reforms.

Last November Great Yarmouth Council, a Universal Credit (UC) pilot council, wrote to the DWP asking it to suspend the housing benefit element of the roll-out as delayed UC payments were causing private landlords to evict tenants, leading to a rise in homelessness in the town.

(Image c. Trowbridge Estate)

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