It is deeply concerning that homelessness and rough sleeping have both risen sharply since 2010. Indeed, while homelessness fell by 62% under the previous Labour government (1998 to 2010), the number of families accepted as homeless has risen by a third since 2010, and recorded rough sleeping has doubled in the last six years and has risen by 30% in the last year alone.
I am concerned that the failure on housing over the last six years has caused worry and misery for millions of people now struggling with the cost of the housing crisis and facing higher rents, more homelessness, the lowest rate of home ownership in a generation, and fewer homes built than at any time since the 1920s. I believe the rise in homelessness can be traced directly to decisions taken by the Government which have led to big cuts in housing benefit support, cuts to funding for homelessness support services; and soaring private rents and the loss of affordable homes, with over 150,000 fewer council homes than in 2010.
I agree with constituents who wrote to me that the spiralling scle of homelessness shames us all when Britain is one of the richest countries in the world and I believe that the Government must urgently address this and tackle the root causes of homelessness.
In the March 2016 Budget, the then Chancellor pledged £115 million to help homelessness. However, this is not new money and I am concerned it will do very little to recover the funding that the Government is set to strip from homelessness hostels and other specialist housing. Indeed, the National Audit Office has found that funding for homelessness services was cut by 45% between 2010 and 2015.
I am aware that charities such as St Mungo's and Crisis are calling for reform to the law on homelessness in England in order to focus more on intervening early and on preventing homelessness. The Government has stated that it will explore options, including legislation, to prevent more people from facing homelessness in the first place. However, the Government failed to include legislation on this in the Queen's Speech in May 2016.
As the Homelessness Reduction Bill is a Private Members' Bill scheduled to have its Second Reading in the House of Commons on 28 October 2016. Unfortunately, as this is a Friday and I have engagements in my constituency I am unable to be in the House of Commons on that day. However I can assure you that I will follow the progress of this Bill closely.
I hope that the Government will listen carefully to the concerns that have been raised by charities such as St Mungo’s and Crisis and I can assure you I will continue to press the Government to do much more to tackle and reduce homelessness and rough sleeping.
You can follow the progress of the Bill through Parliament through the parliament.uk website.