Government and opposition promise to back Homelessness Reduction Bill

The Homelessness Reduction Bill has received the backing of both the government and the Labour opposition as it passes through Parliament.

The Communities and Local Government Committee (CLGC) took the unusual step of sponsoring the private members bill from committee member Bob Blackman after publishing a report into the extent of homelessness and problems with how councils provide support.

The bill places a duty on local authorities to help eligible people at risk of homelessness secure accommodation 56 days in advance, provide those who are homeless with 56 days of support, and ensure that other services refer people to local authority housing teams where relevant.

Sajid Javid, the communities and local government secretary, said: “No one should have to sleep rough on the streets. We want to build a country that works for everyone, not just the privileged few. That’s why we are determined to do all we can to help those who lose their homes and provide them with the support they need to get their lives back on track.

“This government is therefore, very pleased to support Bob Blackman MP’s private members bill, with its ambitious measures to help reduce homelessness.”

Last week, Javid announced that the government would provide £40m to local authorities for initiatives to tackle homelessness.

Marcus Jones, the local government minister, said: “I am very pleased to support this bill, which gives the government an opportunity to build on the work I have been doing with homelessness charities through the Homelessness Working Group. I am looking forward to working with Bob Blackman throughout the bill’s passage, and with local authorities to make a success of this landmark reform.”

John Healey, the shadow housing secretary, added that the scale of “rising homelessness should shame us all”.

“The number of people sleeping on the streets fell under Labour but has doubled with Conservative ministers in charge,” he said. “So it is welcome that the government will support the cross-party Homelessness Reduction Bill. Labour backs the bill and will press ministers to fully fund it.”

He added that the government should tackle the “root causes” of homelessness by providing more affordable housing.

Blackman said: “I welcome the government’s decision to support my bill to reduce homelessness. Throughout my 24 years in local government prior to becoming an MP, I saw the devastation that can be caused by homelessness first hand, with too many people simply slipping through the net under the current arrangements.”

The LGA has expressed caution about the bill, warning that it could increase the already heavy financial burden on councils.

After the bill was published in Parliament on Friday, Lord Porter, chair of the LGA, said: “After having worked closely with Bob Blackman, we are confident that the new bill, if it does go through Parliament, will be in a better place.

“However, it is clear that legislative change alone will not resolve homelessness.

“If we are all to succeed, then all new duties proposed in the bill will need to be fully funded. Councils need powers to resume our role as a major builder of affordable homes.”

In its endorsement of the bill, the CLGC said it would present a “significant” demand on local authorities and that the government should consult with local authorities before introducing a homelessness code of practice, as recommended.

(Image c. Jonathan Brady from PA Archive)

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