Tag Archives: homelessness

Layla Moran: Homeless people need us to find the money to put a roof over their heads

Every year the House of Commons spends 3 days debating Government Department’s estimates for public spending. Up until now, a committee of select committee chairs decides what subjects to debate, but it was different this year:

Layla Moran led the section on homelessness. She expressed disbelief that funding to tackle this was being cut when the supply of housing was going down and homelessness was rising due to Universal Credit. She highlighted the case of a constituent, a mother who works full time, who couldn’t find somewhere she could afford. How did we get to this stage, she asked.

It is a great pleasure to introduce this estimates day debate on the spending of the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government as it relates to homelessness. I would like to start by thanking the hon. Member for Chichester (Gillian Keegan) for co-sponsoring the debate. I also thank colleagues on the Public Accounts Committee and the hon. Member for Sheffield South East (Mr Betts), the Chair of the Housing, Communities and Local ​Government Committee, all of whom supported our bid to the Backbench Business Committee. I am delighted that so many Members wish to speak.

I draw Members’ attention to the reports of the Public Accounts Committee and the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee that are listed on the Order Paper. It was a real eye-opener to work on the Public Accounts Committee as a lead member on that inquiry, alongside the hon. Member for Chichester and the Committee’s Chair, the hon. Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch (Meg Hillier). I will focus my remarks today on that report, which is well worth a read.

The Public Accounts Committee heard and read evidence from a wide range of witnesses. I would especially like to thank St Mungo’s for hosting us and showing us its exemplary work, which led in large part to the questioning we went on to do. The report, which received widespread media coverage, made a number of recommendations on how the Government could more effectively co-ordinate and prioritise spending on tackling rough sleeping and helping all homeless households. These issues are of huge concern across the House and across the country, but they are of equal concern to very many members of our communities, especially on such a freezing day, in a week that is unusually cold.

In my constituency of Oxford West and Abingdon, residents regularly raise concerns about rough sleeping and provision for homeless people—it is the No. 1 issue at the moment. I pay tribute to the incredible work being done in my constituency, especially by Homeless Oxfordshire, formerly known as Oxford Homeless Pathways. It has told me that in Oxford alone it is reaching out to, on average, two new people a day who are seeking its help.

Recent news reports have highlighted a heavy-handed approach by Oxford City Council, with notices issued threatening homeless people with fines of up to £2,500 if they did not move their belongings. The treatment of homeless people in our city has sparked outrage from the public. There is now real determination, and not just in Oxfordshire but across the country, to ensure that we treat those who are sleeping rough with the dignity and respect they deserve.

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Action needed in Scotland to help terminally ill homeless people

Last week, Ed Davey introduced a Bill which, if it passes, would ensure that terminally ill people who are homeless are given the housing and end of life care to ensure that they die with as much dignity and comfort as possible.

Ed’s bill only applies to England. I thought I would have a look at what happens in Scotland. I’d thought that things would be much better north of the border, but they aren’t.

A Marie Curie Scotland briefing to the Scottish Parliament’s Local Government Committee’s inquiry into homelessness makes me very worried:

It is clear that that providing both specialist and general palliative care for homeless people is complicated and challenging and at present not every homeless person living with a terminal illness is getting the care they need.

The Scottish Government needs to ensure that research is done urgently so that appropriate action can be taken to fill the gaps in care.

The Marie Curie briefing outlines where the problems lie. It is not easy for homeless people to access palliative care:

Access to hospices and care homes is very rare for homeless people living with a terminal illness. A lack of any fixed abode makes it difficult, if not impossible for community palliative care teams to meet the needs of homeless people. The only possibility may be through a hostel, a setting in which can be very difficult to deliver care and not necessarily set up for end of life and palliative care. Many staff in hostels will not have the training and support they need to support someone at the end of life, despite in many reported instances of going ‘above and beyond’ in their roles. Education and support in line with the NHS Education for Scotland and Scottish Social Services Council Palliative and End of Life Care framework should be made available to hostel staff.

They recommend a “housing first” approach:

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Layla and Ed try to change laws on homelessness

I was so incredibly proud of two of our Lib Dem MPs yesterday.

First, Layla Moran stood up at PMQs and asked Theresa May to abolish the “archaic, dickensian and cruel” Vagrancy Act which criminalises rough sleeping, adding another layer of indignity to an already horrific situation for vulnerable people.

Here’s the exchange in full:

Under the Vagrancy Act 1824, rough sleeping is illegal. The Act was used nearly 2,000 times last year to drag homeless people before the courts. Scotland and Northern Ireland have already repealed it, so will the Prime Minister support my Bill to consign this heartless, Dickensian law to the history books across the whole United Kingdom?

The Prime Minister

We recognise that we need to take action in relation to rough sleeping, which is why we are putting more money into projects to reduce rough sleeping. That includes projects such as Housing First, which are being established in a number of places to ensure that we can provide for those who are rough sleeping. None of us wants to see anybody rough sleeping on our streets, which is why the Government are taking action.

This is even more important given that the cuts to social security have torn such massive holes in the safety net that homelessness is on the increase.

Layla also introduced a Bill to repeal the Vagrancy Act. Here she is talking about it.

And a couple of hours later, with a speech that packed a real punch, Ed Davey introduced a Bill which aims to give homeless people access to housing and end of life care if they are terminally ill. Yes, that’s right, they don’t actually have it already.

It is bad enough being homeless, but imagine having a terminal illness like Cancer. How on earth are you going to have a chance of managing the pain if you have nowhere to live? Anyone who has ever nursed someone through an illness like that will know how valuable that end of life care is at keeping people as comfortable as possible in their final weeks and days.

How would you like someone you love to end up in those circumstances?

Here’s Ed’s speech in full. It made me sad and angry to think that we live in a country where this isn’t already happening.

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Poverty and homelessness figures show how children are being let down

The End Child Poverty Coalition reveals in a report today that in some parts of the country, more than half our children are living in poverty. What a way to treat the next generation!

Lib Dem Education Spokesperson Layla Moran said:

This is an appalling indictment of a Tory Party that are failing to protect the most vulnerable in society.

The gulf between children born in the richest and poorest families is widening, but Theresa May is more preoccupied with the gulf in her cabinet over Brexit.

When we fail our children like this we fail as a society. The government must take action.

Cuts to social security, benefits for people in and out of work and low pay push more and more families into poverty. The roll-out of Universal Credit sees the poorest families lose over a four-figure sum every year. And let’s not forget the benefits freeze – effectively cutting benefits as prices increase. The Benefit Cap was a bad enough idea when it was introduced under the Coalition but the minute we were off the scene the Tories cut it even further. And what is even more terrible about that is that it’s applied directly to the housing cost so that people fall into rent arrears and face eviction and homelessness.

That would explain why figures in Scotland showed that 10% more children were in temporary accommodation last year than the year before. It is absolutely heartbreaking to think of those young lives in turmoil.

Imagine being 8 and being made homeless and having to stay in temporary accommodation, maybe a Bed and Breakfast, with lots of strangers around, with your entire family in one room which is unlikely to be in great shape. 

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LibLink: Vince Cable What can be done to help street sleepers?

Some people were concerned that when Vince became leader, the high priority given to housing and homelessness during Tim Farron’s tenure in the top job might be lost.

Tim famously got involved in politics after watching Cathy Come Home.

However, those concerns were allayed at Christmas when helping homeless people was the focus of his Christmas Message and he has written further about those experiences in his regular column for his local paper, the Richmond and Twickenham Times.

He wrote about the various circumstances that had forced people he had met to sleep on the streets.

One man I talked to, who had lived for ten years under the arches of Waterloo Bridge, had never recovered from violence he experienced at home as a child from an alcoholic mother; he survives by selling “The Big Issue”.

But others have been forced onto the streets by the vagaries of unstable employment, expensive rents and inadequate or unavailable benefits.

I met a young man sleeping out in Covent Garden who was a chef, looking for work, who couldn’t afford the rent until his next job. Another had fallen through the cracks of Universal Credit, forced out of his home by lack of cash for the landlord.

He highlighted the aspects of welfare reform which caused so many problems.

So what can be done?

We need more emergency hostels – currently facing funding cuts which will hit provision by the Salvation Army and the YMCA.

There has to be a rethink of some of the brutal welfare cuts. The warm words about building affordable housing have to be supported by government action.

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Lib Dems highlight plight of homeless young people

45000 people. It’s the size of a small town. It’s also the number of young people presenting as homeless to local authorities across the whole of Britain. The wonderful people in the Lib Dem research team have uncovered this in a series of freedom of information requests which revealed the number of 18-24 year olds who presented themselves to councils as homeless or at risk of homelessness, who were subsequently assessed under the Housing Act, and who were then accepted as statutorily homeless in the year to September 2017.

You can see a full breakdown of the figures here. Notable points include that four of the top five areas for young people being declared statutorily homeless are in Scotland where this is devolved to the Scottish Government.

This was sadly all too predictable as soon as George Osborne announced cuts to Housing Benefit for young people. He did this at the first chance he had, just after the 2015 election when he didn’t have Nick Clegg there to stop him any more. Vince Cable made the point about benefits cuts in his comments:

These figures reveal the hidden homelessness crisis affecting thousands of young people across the country.

It is a national scandal that so many youngsters are struggling to find a permanent place to call home.

Young people should be hopeful and looking to the future. Yet instead thousands will be spending this Christmas without a roof over their head, worrying about where they will sleep at night.

The situation is being made worse by the Government’s heartless decision to strip young people of housing benefit.

The government must reverse cuts to housing benefit for young people, invest more in preventing people from becoming homeless in the first place and build more genuinely affordable homes.

The utterly heartbreaking thing is that these figures don’t even include all the young people where a final decision was made, not the full number who applied and may have been turned down. 

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Vince’s Christmas Message 2017

In his Christmas message this year, Vince is asking you to support a charity that works with the homeless near to you. Watch the video to find out more.


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