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Inquiry into homelessness launched as DCLG boosts budget

Amid a series of reports suggesting homelessness is on the rise, the Communities and Local Government Committee has launched an investigation to examine the root causes behind this issue.

It will seek evidence from points including the different causes of homelessness in households, steps taken to tackle the problem, the relationship between homelessness and social housing, and what measures councils have taken to deal with this growing issue locally.

Committee chair Clive Betts MP said: “Reports suggest homelessness is on the increase.

“As a Committee, we will want to examine the causes of homelessness, the steps to tackle homelessness, and how issues of social housing are having an impact on homelessness numbers.

“We’ll also want to look at how effectively homelessness levels are being monitored – is government recording and presenting a true picture of those in unsuitable housing or sleeping rough?”

Written evidence for this inquiry must be submitted by 8 February.

This announcement came on the same day as the DCLG announced a “radical new package of measures” to tackle homelessness and provide a “strong safety net” for the most vulnerable people.

The department’s communities minister, Marcus Jones, said this would include maintaining and protecting homelessness prevention funding for local authorities through the finance settlement, totalling £315m by 2019-20.

He would also increase Whitehall’s funding for homelessness programme to £139m over the Spending Review period, commit to work with relevant organisations and across departments to consider prevention options (including in legislation), and take £40m from the Department of Health – as part of a competitive programme for which councils can apply – to refurbish hostels and provide low-cost shared accommodation.

Councils will receive another £30m to improve their “control and flexibility” over homelessness budgets by devolving the funding for managing temporary accommodation from 2017 to 2018.

And a £5m fund will be given to the 25 local authorities facing the greatest pressures in moving people out of temporary accommodation and into a settled home. They will be able to bid for up to £200,000, and all cash must be spent within this financial year.

This will apply to the councils of Barking and Dagenham, Barnet, Birmingham, Brent, Bromley, Brighton and Hove, Croydon, Ealing, Enfield, Hackney, Hammersmith and Fulham Haringey, Hounslow, Islington, Kensington and Chelsea, Lambeth, Lewisham, Luton, Newham, Redbridge, Southwark, Tower Hamlets, Waltham Forest, Wandsworth and Westminster.

“Time spent in temporary accommodation ensures no family is without a roof over their head. And the number of households living in temporary accommodation is still significantly lower now than the peak in 2005, but we recognise that many councils still face significant challenges,” Jones said.

“This funding will help alleviate some of the immediate pressures and allow those councils that most need it the breathing space to innovate and focus on preventing people becoming homeless in the first place.”

One day before this package was announced, homeless charity Shelter revealed that the number of requests for support sent to councils from people on the brink of homelessness had risen by nearly 50% in the last five years.

Last year alone, councils received over 205,000 pleas for help from those facing the prospect of being forced out of their homes. During this period, 54,000 households were officially made homeless.

(Top image c. Trowbridge Estate)


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