With nearly 600 homeless deaths recorded in 2017, it was time government “accepted what austerity has done to this country”, the House of Commons has heard.
An urgent debate on the ONS homeless death figures released today (10th Dec) was brought home to the House with a reference to one death for every Commons seat.
But, pressed from the opposition benches, housing secretary James Brokenshire offered no acknowledgement of the impact of austerity policies on homelessness.
This was despite the SNPs Paul Sweeney putting the question of acceptance above directly to Brokenshire, who fell back on faith in existing initiatives and arguments around “moral duty” and “complex circumstances”.
There was, however, tacit acknowledgement from Brokenshire in relation to “loss of tenancies” as a factor when quizzed on scope for removing the benefit cap that saw so many households struggling to pay rent.
He conceded to “a lack of focus and attention on social housing for years”.
Only the public sector could now deliver such focus and attention when the private sector would not deliver, said Lib Dem Wera Hobhouse.
Shadow housing minister Melanie Onn maintained the death stats should “shake this government out of complacency” at the impact of its policy choices on social security, impact the SNPs Gavin Newland invited Brokenshire to see at first hand.
Two Labour members pressed for homeless deaths to now be considered a public health crisis, while others said the stats showed a need for coroners to consider homelessness a cause of death – with the accompanying requirement for inquest evidence.
Labour’s Paula Sherriff grounded the debate with reference to time and attention taken up by the so-called ‘Stupidgate’ row that dominated PMQs yesterday (19th Dec).
When media gave homelessness deaths coverage measured in seconds compared to extensive ‘analysis’ of what Jeremy Corbyn may or may not have said as an aside then “we’ve got our priorities wrong”, she said.