costs. There are an estimated 120,000 children staying in temporary accommoda- tion each night this winter – a figure that should force Government Ministers of the fifth biggest economy in the world into taking strong and resolute action. Some seeds of optimism have been sewn by the new Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd, who told MPs that she will consider policy changes and rollout delays to restore public confidence in Universal Credit. In front of the Work and Pensions Committee, Rudd said her priority was to make UC safe for vulnerable claimants. She said she was willing to look again at the rollout, as she did not want to see its implementation rushed to meet “arbitrary timetables.”

MORE AFFORDABLE HOUSING NEEDED Her cabinet colleague Brokenshire has recently been benefitting from a huge jump in popularity across local authority housing departments due to decisions to remove the HRA borrowing cap from councils, increases in the budget for affordable housing, and a host of statements in support of low cost, affordable, rented housing.

It felt like a huge step change had been made in Conservative policies towards council housing. Even where people thought this was being done for cynical electoral purposes, they really did not care if the result was a significant growth in the numbers of affordable homes being built. While the right levers are being pulled to get more affordable homes built, we are still losing thousands of low-rent homes as they are being sold to sitting tenants through the Right to Buy. This has forced many thousands of people into the private rented sector, where they have found their rents to be higher and their tenancy far less secure. Retaliatory evictions where landlords kick out tenants, who have complained about a long outstanding repair or a safety issue, are on the increase, and long promised protections have yet to be seen.

The Homeless Reduction Act 2017 was widely welcomed by the housing sector when it was passed, but it has imposed many additional responsibilities on local authorities while only granting them relatively small extra funds, and only for a temporary period.

What is really needed is a properly resourced and long-term commitment to deliver on a wide range of programmes. These should deliver a huge increase in the number of truly affordable homes across the country, new laws to safeguard tenan- cies and changes to the welfare system so fewer evictions take place due to rent arrears. We need the prevention, early inter- vention programmes and support to help homeless people to rebuild their lives, but

it would be much better if we could also tackle the root causes of the problem. Over 200 housing associations have pledged to tackle homelessness by signing a commitment to refer ‘at risk’ cases to councils. This initiative was launched by the National Housing Federation in October 2018 and it means HAs are agree- ing to notify councils of anyone they know of who is at risk of homelessness and in working together with councils on trying to prevent the person becoming homeless.

MORE MONEY AND PRACTICAL HELP This duty already applies to other public bodies but HAs are better placed than many to help councils discharge their legal duties. The NHF’s new chief executive Kate Henderson said the past decade had seen homelessness increase on an “unimag- inable” scale. She hopes to see every HA to sign up to the commitment in 2019. Council chiefs would appreciate even more practical help from their social housing partners. Closer working by staff teams, quicker access to properties which become available, carrying out fewer evictions (particularly of families with children) and an extension of welfare support policies to assist ‘at risk’ groups are all being pursued.

Meanwhile Councillor Martin Tett, the Local Government Association’s housing spokesman, had a clear message for policy makers in Whitehall. He said: "Councils are determined to prevent homelessness and

rough sleeping from happening in the first place and to support affected families. This is increasingly difficult with homelessness services facing a funding gap of more than £100m in 2019/20. Proper resourcing of local government funding is essential if we are going to end rising homelessness. He added: “Councils also need to keep

100 per cent of the receipts of any homes they sell to replace them and reinvest in building more of the genuinely affordable homes they desperately need and the ability to adapt welfare reforms to prevent people from losing their home where possible.” The Chartered Institute of Housing is suggesting that the Government should either suspend the Right to Buy, or it should allow councils to use all of the sale receipts to pay for their replacement. In the latest published statistics for the period July to September 2018, there were 2,417 council homes sold to tenants while just 1,160 starts on new homes or acquisitions were made. This shortfall of 1,250 homes in the quarter is repeating the pattern of recent years.

Clearly what we need to see is a joined up programme of policies and initiatives that work together and not against each other. Let’s hope that in their New Year resolutions, Messrs Brokenshire and Rudd have committed to overseeing a significant drop in the number of needless deaths and hardship cases caused by their department’s policies.


Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32  |  Page 33  |  Page 34  |  Page 35  |  Page 36  |  Page 37  |  Page 38  |  Page 39  |  Page 40  |  Page 41  |  Page 42  |  Page 43  |  Page 44  |  Page 45  |  Page 46  |  Page 47  |  Page 48  |  Page 49  |  Page 50  |  Page 51  |  Page 52