Homelessness crisis can’t be ‘solved on a shoestring’

New report provides first assessment of the state of homelessness prevention from the perspective of local government.

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The Local Government Information Unit (LGiU) has launched the final report from the Local Government Homelessness Commission (LGHC).

A year in progress, the initiative was set up to investigate how councils can fulfil their obligation to prevent homelessness.

Outlined in the report, the LGHC argues that a comprehensive housing and homelessness strategy is “desperately needed” to address the underlying causes of homelessness and give councils the resources they need to carry out duties.

While the LGHC welcomed the introduction of the Homelessness Reduction Act (2017), the report found that, without significant strategic funding, the systems in place under the act may result in an improved assessment process, but will not achieve its ultimate objectives.

As reported by 24housing earlier this year, eight in 10 councils were reported to have seen an increase in homelessness presentations since the Act’s introduction, with the Local Government Association (LGA) revealing that local authorities have been housing more than 200,000 households in temporary accommodation.

Further stated is the “urgent need” for sustainable and affordable housing, mental health support, addiction services, and other infrastructure to address the causes of homelessness, with current funding said to be spent “unproductively and inefficiently”.

“A dysfunctional housing market, inadequate and badly administered welfare regime largely exemplified by Universal Credit and the Local Housing Allowance, and rising levels of poverty all exacerbate homelessness,” the report added.

The report is the first assessment of the state of homelessness prevention from the perspective of local government, those who are tasked with implementing the policy.

Further recommendations  from the report include:

  • A sustainable housing and homelessness strategy, with adequate funding
  • Local variation of housing allowance
  • The introduction of minimum three-year tenancies for the private rented sector
  • A homelessness-prevention toolkit, designed around the needs of local government

The Commission was led by local government; Cllr Peter Fleming, leader of Sevenoaks district council and co-chair of the LGiU’s Homelessness Commission; and Cllr Simon Blackburn, leader of Blackpool council and co-chair of the LGiU’s Homelessness Commission.

In a series of four evidence sessions held between October 2018 to March 2019, the Commission’s investigation focussed on how councils use data as a homelessness prevention tool, strategies for supporting young people and other vulnerable groups, accessing sustainable accommodation, and finance and funding.

Commenting on the report’s release, Fleming said the timing of what has been an in-depth look at the current homelessness situation in this country “couldn’t have been more appropriate”.

“The LGiU saw this as a valuable piece of work and has been instrumental in bringing different perspectives around the table to help produce the report and its recommendations,” Fleming added.

Blackburn added: “A huge amount of work has gone in to this report, and I would like to thank the LGiU and everyone who has presented evidence to the enquiry.

“Government needs to work with local authorities to ensure that the distribution of funding matches need and that there is enough flex in systems to allow areas to respond to their housing challenges, which vary hugely across the country.”

Jonathan Carr-West, CEO of LGiU, said: “Local authorities are tackling an ever-growing homelessness crisis in our communities on a shoestring, with less and less money to do so.

“The government can no longer expect local government to pick up the pieces.”

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