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Government slammed for ‘light touch’ approach to tackling homelessness

The government has failed to evaluate the full extent of how its welfare reforms will impact on homelessness, a new report released by the National Audit Office (NAO) has found.

In the study, the DCLG was also slammed for failing to publish a cross-government strategy to prevent and tackle homelessness, although it did say that it had now at least acknowledged the scale of the challenge facing the UK.

The damning report criticised the government for taking a “light touch” approach to working with local authorities to tackle homelessness.

NAO researchers also found that the ability of local authorities to reduce homelessness is constrained by the limited options they have to house people.

The report also laid out the huge cost of homelessness to the public sector of over £1bn per year, £845m of which is spent on temporary housing.

“Homelessness in all its forms has significantly increased in recent years, driven by several factors,” said Amyas Morse, head of the NAO.

“Despite this, government has not evaluated the impact of its reforms on this issue, and there remain gaps in its approach. 

“It is difficult to understand why the department persisted with its light touch approach in the face of such a visibly growing problem. Its recent performance in reducing homelessness therefore cannot be considered value for money.”

Cllr Martin Tett, the LGA’s housing spokesman, added that homelessness was a “tragedy”, as a settled home is crucial to the health and wellbeing of individuals and families, and is a central cornerstone of successful communities.

“Rising homelessness is a huge challenge for councils, which are having to house the equivalent of an extra secondary school’s worth of homeless children in temporary accommodation every month,” he said.

“The net cost to councils of doing this has tripled in the last three years, as they plug the gap between rising rents and frozen housing benefit.

“Councils are working hard to tackle homelessness and are focusing on preventing it happening. We now need the government to support this local effort, by allowing councils to invest in building genuinely affordable homes and providing the support and resources they need to help prevent people becoming homeless in the first place.”

But a government spokesman stated that tackling homelessness was a “complex issue” that had no single solution.

“We're investing £550m to 2020 to address the issue and implementing the most ambitious legislative reform in decades, the Homelessness Reduction Act,” they explained.

“There’s more to do to make sure people always have a roof over their head and ministers will set out further plans shortly, including delivering on our commitment to eliminate rough sleeping entirely.”

Top Image: Yui Mok PA Wire

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