The stock response from government, local and national, when challenged about a current or impending problem, is to say how much money it is spending to resolve the matter.
This is true about the rough sleeping crisis. The number of people sleeping rough has doubled since 2010, according to a report in the Financial Times in January. And today (10th August 2017), the national charity, Crisis, has forecast that rough sleeping will rise by a further 76% by 2026. (This forecast is based on research conducted on behalf of Crisis by Heriot-Watt University).
A Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman said: “Alongside investing £550 million to 2020 to address the issue, we’re implementing the Homelessness Reduction Act, which will require councils to provide early support to people at risk of becoming homeless. There’s more to do and ministers will set out plans shortly.”
It is easy for someone to quote eye-watering sums but given the track record since 2010 we need something that will inspire confidence. The doubling in rough sleeping numbers is a direct result of government policies. I look forward to the government’s plans being published. The plans need to be more than worthy statements of intent.
The government’s plans need to be SMART. They need to set out specific measures that will be implemented, what difference these measures will make, and when the positive impact will be seen. A vague date like 2026 is no good. Most of the Ministers around today will not even be a footnote in history by 2026.
I would suggest, amongst other things, the following:
- The appointment of a Minister for Rough Sleeping who will remain in her/his post until the next general election so they can be judged on their record
- Properly fund local authorities to meet their homelessness duties
- Reverse the drop in investment for affordable homes, specifically homes that will be made available to homeless households and individuals
- Reverse the cuts to housing benefit
- Reintroduce direct housing benefit payments to landlords to build confidence especially in the private rented sector
- Put funding for homelessness services on a proper footing,
It should shame us all, not least those in power, that rough sleeping numbers have doubled since 2010. Today’s report from Crisis should shame government into urgent action.