Farron: Soaring homelessness is an utter disgrace

We know that Tim Farron is passionate about tackling homelessness. It’s the issue that famously brought him into politics as a teenager. In November last year, he took part in a sleep out with Centrepoint. Here is his bleary-eyed wake-up video:

Today, figures revealed a 16% rise in the number of people sleeping on the streets.  It’s absolutely heartbreaking to think that there are over 4,000 people with nowhere else to go. These people need help – right now..

Tim said:

Soaring homelessness is an utter disgrace in twenty first century Britain. Britain is one of the richest places on earth, it is a stain on our nation’s conscience that thousands of people are still sleeping rough on the streets every night.

I believe you judge a society on how it treats its most vulnerable, in this the Tories are failing and more than that, they hurting those who need the most help.

It’s a symptom of the housing crisis that the Government is not doing enough to tackle. As well as inadequate social housing, we now have an expanding private rented sector which is too often unstable, unsafe and unaffordable, and renters can end up homeless through no fault of their own. No-one should sleep rough on our streets and the government should start a war on homelessness to end it once and for all.

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  • Lorenzo Cherin 25th Jan '17 - 1:53pm

    This is more like it ! Alas, since Brexit emerged as an issue it has become an obsession ! Not with many of us who yearn for the something else we are concerned with more !

    Tim has a good track record on this subject. His Liberalism influenced by his seeing Cathy Come Home as a youth. Well done here. Let’s have more to unify the party and country.But as with Brexit , we must not make this all and only about our attacking the government , although that is appropriate. We must develop Liberal Democratic solutions.For a start we need to recognise that not only is social housing the answer in the rental side, rather than private , money oriented landlords. but something needs to be developed in the way of helping people become home owners.

    The traditional Liberal international protection of individual property rights was and is right. Why should anyone pay decades to landlords, nearly as much, sometimes even more than a mortgage?! Where Tim went wrong in his opposition to selling off housing association properties, was in the detail of what he did not say and do.He did not say much about the moral appropriateness of the aspiration and actuality of home ownership in empowering people. And he did not say anything much about the sense of security and stability in staying put and purchasing thus . If the supply of social housing was very widespread, I see the right to buy , with a modest , not absurd discount and , for example, only possible after five years dwelling in that property, a very different scenario to at present. We are nowhere near that now. We must put so much more into social housing, but it must be more widely available.

    There is a link with Brexit. So rare is a council or even housing association property a possibility now, a perception has emerged, and not without reason, that need is not based on length of residency in an area, but circumstances. Unfortunately it is populist politicians with terrible track records , like Margaret Hodge, who bring up these things , and the sensible and practical elements to the debate get lost altogether. Brexit was also , and is, like the wretched Trump victory, about people trying to take back control of their lives. In misplaced ways but for many reasons.

    We must put together a holistic, Liberal policy , not a knee jerk , or negative one. There is much scope , but we must be radical and moderate. And much investment is needed.

  • Good lad, Tim. Very, very proud of you !! That’s the Tim I voted for !!

    It isn’t a flash in the pan. I well remember from my own Kendal Councillor days back in the 1970’s walking round town at night with Rev Alan Gawith of St George’s doing surveys of rough sleepers (yes,even in prosperous Kendal too !). I know for fact that Tim has followed up the work begun then as well as in the big Cities and I take my hat off to him.

    It’s not a simple matter – there are welfare issues, mental health issues, , alcohol and drug issues all to be considered….. and especially the need for safe supervised night shelters. Tragically the evisceration of local government services has hammered provision.

    We’re so lucky to have a leader with a heart as well as a head. Now let’s get a whole gamut of policies to tackle issues such as this going beyond Brexit.

  • Eddie Sammon 25th Jan '17 - 2:52pm

    I’d pay more tax for better services for the homeless, and I don’t normally like tax increases!

    It can’t be good for us that we just abandon people to live like that. I often can’t enjoy myself properly whilst I know others are homeless in Britain.

  • It seems that we do far better, and care far more, in opposition than in government…

    The 2013 Homeless Charities report explicitly blamed the Government’s welfare cuts for compounding the problems caused by the high cost and shortage of housing as demand outstrips supply. It found that the cap on housing benefit made it more difficult to rent from a private landlord, especially in London, and claimed the controversial “bedroom tax” has caused a sharp rise in arrears for people in public housing, particularly in the Midlands and North. Although ministers denied that their reforms had contributed to the return of homelessness their own figures showed that homelessness had risen in each of the three years since the Coalition was formed – after falling sharply in the previous six years.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 25th Jan '17 - 3:58pm

    It is wonderful to hear Tim Farron speaking out about this issue. It is an issue about which he clearly feels passionately. It was after watching the film Cathy Come Home as a teenager that he joined the Liberal party. It does seem to me, that when he speaks about homelessness, he speaks with a real conviction that is lacking when he speaks about the party’s position on Brexit. (I may be quite wrong, but I do get the feeling that his apparent position on Brexit is one that he has felt forced into, and is not entirely happy with.)
    Some things have improved since the film Cathy Come Home was made. A family with children will be a found some sort of accommodation, even though it may be highly unsatisfactory bed and breakfast accommodation. But there has been very little improvement in the situation of single homeless people. There is a need for far more affordable rented accommodation suitable for single people. Even where such accommodation does exist, landlords these days often insist that a tenant must be in full time employment, and ask to see proof of income for the last six months. They often ask for references. Tenants also often have to pass a credit check. But people who find themselves homeless often cannot meet these conditions. We need to find ways to make it easier for people who have been through difficult times to get back on their feet.
    As David Raw mentions, there are often many factors involved, such as mental illness and drug use. We need a holistic approach that will address all these factors.

  • Sue Sutherland 25th Jan '17 - 4:48pm

    One of the problems with street homelessness is that even when accommodation becomes available people have lost the skills needed to live on their own. In this situation people need a very high level of support to succeed, but this can be done by charities using volunteers as a bridge between the homeless person and the community. Of course, professionals need to be leading this and provide the help that is needed in terms of applying for benefits, for a home and for a job. It isn’t as easy as providing a home and leaving them to it because often someone will self destruct and not turn up for an interview and return to alcohol or drug abuse just when their lives seem to be about to change because that in itself is scary and stressful. With long term homelessness a series of hostel provision with gradually reduced support is necessary. I am so glad that Tim is highlighting this.

  • @ expats ” It seems that we do far better, and care far more, in opposition than in government…”

    A different leadership will now makes a difference (I hope).

  • Yellow Submarine 26th Jan '17 - 4:49am

    I accept Tim is utterly genuine in his concern on this and it’s to his credit he’s leading on it. However Homelessness is a lagging indicator and the huge surge is as much based on Coalition policy as this government’s. The Lib Dems are partially responsible for what’s going on. They could could have blunted the more idiological of the Coalition’s welfare cuts but didn’t. There’s a case for rebuilding the Liberal Democrats but their is also a case for remembering why they were fairly destroyed in 2015.

  • David Raw 25th Jan ’17 – 5:33pm…A different leadership will now makes a difference (I hope)…..

    As do I. However, judging by many posters, the last leadership (apart from a few minor errors) did a great job….
    There are many causes of, and many solutions to, homelessness but to address both needs money and I can’t see the current administration following that route…With so few MPs we have little political clout and what really rankles is that, when we could have made a difference, we made things a lot worse…

  • @ expats Agree with all of that – and a hope is not the same as a certainty.

  • @ Yellow submarine Completely agree, and add as someone who spent fifty years of my adult life actively working for the party, the apologists for what happened in the Coalition years make a huge mistake if they underestimate the extent of the disillusionment of many long standing supporters as they saw events unroll.

    I see the effects of what you say on welfare cuts daily as a Trustee of a Food Bank.

    I’m pleased there are signs of recovery – but – the jury is still out on how effective the party can be in terms of competence and policy. I believe and hope Tim Farron understands this – but I’m afraid the memory of the awful embarrassing ‘I’m sorry’ Clegg saga still lingers with every ‘posthumous’ knighthood that’s dished out.

    Let’s hope time can heal and lessons are learned. There is a gap in the market for a radical party…………. but there’s a lot to prove and live down to fill it.

  • I’m not advocating Tim sleeps rough every night, but this is a super important issue and I’m glad he’s still going on about it, even if it’s one of those taboo subjects that both the Tories and Labour have no time for.

    I hope Tim, our press department etc continue to focus on video content. It’s one area of the party I think we need to do lots to work on – fingers crossed I can get involved on that front some time. 🙂

  • Lorenzo Cherin 26th Jan '17 - 1:57pm

    Too much regret about the coalition. I criticised and do, where they got things wrong , but in an economic crisis the funding and possibilities were not there to do many of the things that need our attention. The good years , when money was there in abundance , was when the eye was off the ball and the errors really glaring.

    Why is it ok for people to completely condemn our party in those years when as very junior partner we as a party did not get everything wrong , or right, yet now apparently we cannot debate and discuss direction without either being accused of rocking the boat, or criticising our leader.

    Nick was not a demon, Tim is not a saint.

    They are good , decent , Liberal Democrats. Whether you like one less than the other, unless we recognise, not so much that the coalition was all wrong, but that nothing is all right, we get no where.

    Except to further arrogance.

  • Matthew Huntbach 27th Jan '17 - 9:21am

    Yellow Submarine

    They could could have blunted the more idiological of the Coalition’s welfare cuts but didn’t.

    Could they?


    Why is it blandly supposed that the Liberal Democrats could have easily got the Conservatives to break all their pledges? The main Conservative pledge, what the Conservative Party stands for more than anything else is keeping taxes down. What further cuts in other things should the Liberal Democrats have proposed – and the Conservatives would have agreed to (so, not abolishing Trident …) – that would have paid for keeping up welfare payments without raising taxes?

    The Liberal Democrats could have had more power in negotiating with the Conservatives if they’d had outside support – in particular if Labour had stood up and cheered on the Liberal Democrats when they did make a stand against what the Conservatives wanted. But no, Labour just wanted to see the Liberal Democrats weakened and destroyed, so they propped up the extreme right-wing of the Liberal Democrats by making out that all of us in the party supported everything they were about.

    And they are still doing that now.

    Well, congratulations Labour, you got what you wanted by destroying us: a permanent full Conservative government, and you as a useless sole opposition.

    The Liberal Democrat leadership made so many mistakes during the coalition, making a difficult situation much worse. But the idea that they could have got far more from the Conservatives than they did really does contradict what is seen worldwide in this sort of situation. Junior coalition partners really cannot get much, and certainly not if what they is actively opposed by the much bigger main coalition party.

  • Matthew Huntbach 27th Jan '17 - 9:33am

    Lorenzo Cherin

    Nick was not a demon, Tim is not a saint.

    Nick is not a demon, but he made many mistakes in presentation that enabled our opponents to paint us as “Yellow Submarine” has done, and thus cause us to be destroyed. Of course, there was a right-wing fringe of the Liberal Democrats (tiny in numbers, but well-funded from outside) that was happy to see us destroyed, with the false belief that somehow there were millions of voters who wanted an extreme free market economics party, so once the centre and left of the Liberal Democrats was wiped out, we’d become that and … er, well it didn’t happen, did it?

    The first mistake was the “Rose Garden”, making out that we thought the Coalition was super-duper wonderful with us equal to the Conservatives in it, whereas it was actually a miserable little compromise with us very weak due to the way the distortional representation system that Labour supports so propped up the Tories by giving them five times as many seats as us, even though they only got one and a half times as many votes.

    The last mistake was going on about how bad it would be if there were a Labour-SNP coalition because the SNP would dominate it and get whatever they wanted. Rather a silly line to use when we needed to defend ourselves by pointing out that a party with 57 or so seats in coalition with a party of 300 or so seats cannot get that much out of it, don’t you think?

    Pushing us as a tax-cutting party by going on about increasing tax allowances, which seemed to be the main theme put out by the party leadership in the 2015 general election, also utterly destroyed the defence argument which I myself have used against Yellow Submarine. Silly, very silly. What we actually stood for in 2010 was shifting taxes, not cutting them as was falsely claimed by the leadership in 2015.

  • Matthew Huntbach 28th Jan '17 - 4:15pm


    Could they?


    I note that “Yellow Submarine” makes these damaging claims about the Liberal Democrats, but is unable to support his/her case when s/he is asked some very basic questions about it.

    This proves my point. The insults thrown at the Liberal Democrat because they were forced to go along with what our disproportional representation electoral system gave us were mainly about the Labour Party wanting to support the Conservative Party by destroying us and restoring the good ol’ two-party system.

    Labour loves the Tories and wants us to have a Tory government all the time, while they preen themselves being the sole unchallenged opposition that doesn’t have to work hard and doesn’t have to think and get paid a nice salary to do nothing but be the token opponents in the Tory dominated state.

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