Government complacency has failed homelessness

A new report from the Public Accounts Committee has argued that homelessness across England is now ‘a national crisis’ and that the government’s attitude to reducing homelessness has been unacceptably complacent.

According to the Common’s committee, over 78,000 households, including over 120,000 children, are homeless and housed in temporary accommodation, while there are as many as 9,100 people sleeping rough on our streets. Furthermore, since 2010, the number of households in temporary accommodation has increased by more than 60 per cent, and since March 2011 the number of people who sleep rough has risen by 134 per cent.

Pinpointing blame on the Department for Communities and Local Government, the report says that its ‘light touch’ approach to working with councils has clearly failed and that its overall approach has been ‘unacceptably complacent’.

Meg Hillier, chair of the committee, said: “The latest official figures hammer home the shameful state of homelessness in England and the abject failure of the government’s approach to addressing the misery suffered by many thousands of families and individuals. As we approach Christmas there are thousands of children in temporary accommodation—a salutary reminder of the human cost of policy failure. The evidence we heard from organisations that work with homeless people should serve as a wake-up call: government decisions are not made in a vacuum and the consequences can be severe. The government must do more to understand and measure the real-world costs and causes of homelessness and put in place the joined-up strategy that is so desperately needed.

“That means properly addressing the shortage of realistic housing options for those at risk of homelessness or already in temporary accommodation. More fundamentally, it means getting a grip on the market’s failure to provide genuinely affordable homes, both to rent and to buy. Delegating a problem is not a solution and we do not share the government’s faith in the cure-all potential of the Homelessness Reduction Act.

“There are practical steps it can take now—for example, targeting financial support on local authorities with acute shortages of suitable housing, rather than those councils which are simply ready to spend—that would make a real difference to people’s lives. We urge it to respond positively and swiftly to the recommendations set out in our report."

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