Lib Dems publish plan to end rough sleeping

Today the Liberal Democrats will set out a bold plan to end rough sleeping within five years, spanning social housing, welfare, local authority funding and legal changes.

Shadow Housing Secretary Tim Farron declared that “nobody should have to spend a night sleeping on the streets” and announced a package of measures to prevent rough sleeping, including:

  • Scrapping the Vagrancy Act
  • Introducing a “somewhere safe to stay” duty on local authorities to provide immediate emergency accommodation
  • Abolishing Section 21 “no fault” evictions
  • Increasing Local Housing Allowance payments
  • Providing accommodation and support for survivors of domestic abuse
  • Extending the “move on” period for refugees from 28 days to 56

The latest government figures show that, under the Conservatives, the number of rough sleepers in England on a single night has risen by 31% since 2015, to 4,677. In 2018, 1,320 people were prosecuted under the Vagrancy Act, according to the homelessness charity Crisis.

Announcing the plan, Tim Farron, Liberal Democrat Shadow Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, said:

Nobody should have to spend a night sleeping on the streets. It is the most shameful example of the failure of this Conservative Government to provide a safety net for those who need it.

The Conservatives are sitting on their hands, failing to protect the most vulnerable people in society. They haven’t built enough social housing, their benefit cuts have made poverty worse, and they blocked Liberal Democrat efforts to repeal the cruel, Dickensian law that criminalises people just for sleeping rough.

The plan we’re setting out today will build a brighter future by ending rough sleeping within five years. We will make sure that everyone has a decent home so they can live with dignity.

The other parties pay lip service to this goal, but only the Liberal Democrats have the clear and credible policies to actually achieve it.

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  • Well done, Tim Farron. It’s a joy to hear of, I hope, soon to be re-elected Liberal Democrat parliamentarian engaging with this growing tragedy of modern times.

    I recall from my old Cumbrian days, before Tim was elected, he took part in an overnight ‘sleep out’ in Kendal (one of my daughters took part) to publicise the need for provision to deal with the complex issues of addiction and mental health associated with this problem.

    I hope it is an indication of a growing engagement by the party to put the failures of the half of this decade behind it, and to face up to the needs of those at the receiving end of increasing inequality and poverty. It’s time to revive the party’s radicalism in the old tradition of Seebohm Rowntree in the early part of the last century.

  • Mark Smulian 28th Nov '19 - 11:21am

    I applaud this plan but if the past is any guide the actual number of rough sleepers may be even higher.
    Back in 2001 the Blair government claimed to have drastically reduced rough sleeping. I edited a weekly housing magazine at the time and we had homelessness charities telling us the police had made an unusual effort to get rough sleepers off the streets the night the government count was conducted.
    We put this to test and in one evening a team of six journalists found in the vicinity of Westminster Cathedral alone two-thirds of what the government claimed was the rough sleeper count for the whole of Greater London.
    A few nights later I visited Brighton and saw six rough sleepers between the station and sea front – at a time when the government claimed there were only eight in the entire city.

  • When I attended the 2015 Bournemouth Conference I saw several rough sleeper on my way to the Conference Hall….. and heard later that one of them who used to sleep under a viaduct in a car park had died.

    In addition to the practical steps Tim proposes, there may be the need to set up a Royal Commission to report on the current situation. It really is a growing post Victorian era nightmare that is revisiting us.

  • Sue Sutherland 28th Nov '19 - 12:37pm

    This is very welcome and it’s great to hear Tim Farron’s voice standing up for the poor again. Street homeless people are living in absolute poverty and providing shelter is the first step towards helping those in this situation.
    However, reintegration into society requires in depth support with a gradual decrease in support levels as people become more independent. It is a much more complex problem than just providing basic accommodation. However, at least we are prepared to take that first step.

  • Katharine Pindar 28th Nov '19 - 11:58pm

    After canvassing with Tim and members of his team today in Grasmere and Ambleside, it was good to read tonight about this excellent initiative from him, which he didn’t mention. I don’t know how he found time to bring it in – certainly today he and his office assistant Tina in particular were putting in all the hours there were until an evening meeting, and I gather that is their daily timetable, going round different parts of the constituency. It was very enjoyable door-knocking with them, even in the wind and the drizzle which kept refreshing Tina’s long hair, and the canvass results were pretty heartening too.

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