ICYMI: Lord Roberts demands more for those made homeless

It was a busy week last week, with local elections and all, but in the midst of the flurry of leaflet delivery and canvassing, Lord Roberts was busy in Parliament questioning the Government on homelessness.

This has been a big issue in North Devon, as it is across the country, with austerity having gone too far and people not able to afford a roof over their heads.

Lord Robert posited:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the decrease in local authority spending since 2009 on homelessness and the number of deaths of homeless people.

You can read the entire debate here and watch the video here.

Lord Robert’s office kindly sent over a piece on Rough Sleeping written by his researcher Shany Mizrai. We missed out on publishing it last week, but I think it deserves a read:

The House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts has described the extent of homelessness across England as a ‘national crisis’. Appallingly, at any one time, there are as many as 9,100 people sleeping rough on the streets. In 2017 alone, 597 people died while homeless – a third of them, of treatable illnesses. Unfortunately, facts now suggest that homelessness in England has risen 165% higher than it was in 2010.

Importantly, the National Audit Office highlights that there is a high prevalence of mental illness, alcohol and drug dependency among rough sleepers: of the 70% of rough sleepers who had a support-needs assessment recorded, 47% had mental health support needs, 44% had alcohol support needs and 35% had drug support needs. The question is: what is the government doing to help rough sleepers deal with these dependencies?

Any measure the government implements in the future cannot be successful unless it is matched by a renewed focus across government on tackling the twin issues of both the supply and affordability of decent housing, which currently underlie the causes of homelessness.

The UK is not the only country dealing with these issues – Feantsa, the European Federation of National Organisations Working with the Homeless, has released its second report on housing exclusion in Europe, highlighting that homelessness and housing problems reach crisis point in all EU countries (except Finland). The UK now ranks 20th out of 28 countries, with “a broken housing market out of reach for poor and middle-class people” For poor young people across Europe, the situation is becoming increasingly prevalent, with 65% in Germany, 78% in Denmark and 58% in the UK spending more than 40% of their disposable income on housing.

In Finland, long term programmes for reducing homelessness over the past 20 years have proven their value, by focusing on the provision of permanent, affordable housing, and providing specialised support for the most vulnerable people such as the Housing First scheme, which gives homeless people stable accommodation to end homelessness rather than just managing it. While other member states have committed to this path, Feantsa says clear European incentives are needed to give greater momentum to these proven solutions to homelessness and housing issues.

In 2018, the government announced a £100 million plan to “end rough sleeping by 2027”. However, is this measure too little too late? Councils indeed state that this will not make up for the loss of funding that they used to receive until 2010, the point at which the number of rough sleepers started to escalate. Although it is hoped that the expected number of 6,000 people will have been helped by this scheme by 2020, it is important to highlight that without fundamental action to tackle the root causes of homelessness (for example cuts to support services and a lack of social homes, which keep people in a poverty trap), any measure can only achieve so much. With the number of rough sleepers increasing on the rise, this is now more important than ever before.

Homelessness is one of the many issues on which we must keep pressuring the Government. Many thanks to Lord Roberts and his team for championing those made homeless, some of the most vulnerable in our society.

* Kirsten Johnson was the PPC for Oxford East in the 2017 General Election. She is a pianist and composer at www.kirstenjohnsonpiano.com.

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This entry was posted in Parliament.


  • Good work – again – by Roger Roberts, one of our star peers.

    Cadwch ati Roger.

  • Nigel Strang 8th May '19 - 7:30pm


    Does this include migrants migrants in irregular circumstances.

    In France there is homelessness but the worst of it Is the vast homeless communities – particularly the Syrian refugees –

    There are also the vast Roma shanty towns whic the state regularly razes without providing an alternative – then there are empty buildings within and around Paris. We shall watch with interest. How do avoid discrimination

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