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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John Leech slams Manchester Council on homelessness

Labour today have an opposition day debate on Universal Credit. They are rightly calling out the huge flaws in the system and the misery its botched implementation is causing.

What’s interesting is that they now accept that the principles behind Universal Credit – as an end to the poverty trap – were sound. It is the huge cuts post 2015 when the Tories were governing on their own, and the implementation which leaves people without money for six weeks as standard which must be stopped. They raise the issue of homelessness and evictions caused by Universal Credit, too.

Unfortunately, Labour’s council in …

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Olly Grender writes…Why Alison Suttie and I are sleeping out tonight

Don’t know about the rest of you but I love my bed.  Nothing makes me appreciate it more than the annual DePaul International sleepout.  

Tonight Alison Suttie and I will be bedding down in the Somerset House courtyard.  We are in a safe secure place in comparison with most people who are homeless and on the streets.

But a night sleeping out in central London is a stark reminder to us of what too many people endure – and in growing numbers.   You don’t feel safe.  You don’t really sleep.  You spend the day feeling pretty ropey.  That is just one night.

The next day I will speak in a debate in the Lords about availability of housing – what a sorry tale that has been over the decades and lies at the heart of a growing crisis of homelessness here in the UK.  Alison has seen DePaul’s work in Odessa in Ukraine and in Bratislava in Slovakia in her international work with Tuberculosis NGOs.

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Cllr Keith Aspden writes…Tackling homelessness in York

Last week the York Liberal Democrats were delighted to welcome Sir Vince Cable for a flying visit to his home city.

Vince was born and brought up in York and many local members have fond memories of the two energetic general election campaigns we fought when Vince was Parliamentary Candidate for the old York constituency in 1983 and 1987.

York is an interesting city politically in that the three main parties each have roughly the same number of councillors. Since 2015 the Liberal Democrat Group has formed part of the joint administration running the Council.

One area in which we can take pride in the Council’s record is homelessness. York’s services for preventing and managing homelessness have been awarded the National Practitioner Support Service’s Gold Standard award. At the time of the award we were only the third local authority to have achieved this. Gold Standard requires the service to have a focus on early intervention and prevention of homelessness at its core.

On Sunday 30 July Vince joined our Executive Member for Adult Social Care, Councillor Carol Runciman, and myself for a tour of the Peasholme Centre on Fishergate. Many members will be familiar with this part of the city since it is very close to the Novotel and the Barbican Centre where the party has held three successful Spring Conferences.

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Tim Farron commitment to end homelessness – reason to be proud, but also conscious of a great challenge

A party press release yesterday said:

The Liberal Democrats have committed to ending the scandal of rough sleeping in Britain, as the Homelessness Reduction Bill enters into force today.

Following a campaign visit to the Hundred Houses Society, a charitable housing association in Cambridge, Tim Farron announced a series of measures the party would put in place to help end rough sleeping.

These include introducing a Housing First provider in each local authority, to put long-term homeless people straight into independent homes rather than emergency shelters. Other policies include increasing funding for local councils for homelessness prevention, reinstating housing benefit for under-21s and reversing planned cuts to Local Housing Allowance rates.

This is a good reason to be very proud of our party. Making this commitment is a big deal. Housing is a basic human right, and we are right to base our policy on that.

Shelter advocate an approach based on the American “Housing First” model. I see that Tim Farron embraces that method.

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My time living on the streets of Cheltenham

As I woke up from my third night on the streets, I started to feel it.  Sleep deprivation had kicked in, so the word didn’t come to me immediately and it still hasn’t as I start to write this article at home in the warm.  Feeling unable to move my mouth to speak properly or even bring to mind the right words wasn’t a side effect I’d imagined.

Stretching in a vain attempt to rid my bones of the deepest imaginable chill, I was sure about one thing: I was in a very different position to the other people who had spent that Saturday night in the nooks and crannies of Cheltenham town centre.  As a council cabinet member for housing, I knew I could make changes to help and had already started to ask myself what should be done.  And answering that question is how I had found myself waking up on the streets.

As anyone involved in the public sector will tell you, the starting point of answering any question is usually some form of consultation.  This means anyone who may be affected by a policy change can have their say.  But in the case of rough sleepers or street people you can’t really ask the people whose lives will be most impacted.  When somebody’s main tasks every day are gathering a few pounds for a meal, staying warm and then finding a place to sleep, why would they bother to take part in something like a council consultation?  And if they’re living on the streets or in insecure accommodation it’s pretty unlikely they’d even find out in the first place.

To get over this hurdle I carried out my own hands-on consultation and my experiences over those three nights will stay with me for the rest of my life.  I won’t be able to shake off that uncomfortable feeling – the name of which I still can’t bring to my sleep deprived mind – for some time.  I’ll always remember the feelings of vulnerability and I’ll always remember the bone-creaking cold.

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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:

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Changing the mood music of politics: Let’s get angry about poverty and refuse to stand by while papers demonise the poor

I remember the feeling of sadness when I saw these figures from a Scottish Lib Dem freedom of information request. In Christmas 2015, 26,320 adults and 11,200 children were homeless. Those figures are up 8% and 16% respectively in two years. As the party’s housing spokesperson, I wanted to highlight this and, as the photo shows, the story was picked up by the Sun. I said:

It is absolutely heart-breaking to learn that more than 11,000 children were homeless last Christmas. It is intolerable that the number of families without a permanent roof over their head continues to rise.

Across the last three Christmases, 100,000 people were homeless, almost a third of them children.

We judge the strength of a society by how it looks out for its most vulnerable. These figures are a stain on the national conscience.

The Scottish Government have failed the children and families who don’t have stable warm home at Christmas. Many will have been in temporary accommodation but that it hardly a suitable or sustainable way of tackling homeless in the long term. The failure of the SNP to deliver on their previous social housing promises has undoubtedly contributed to this situation.

That is why the Scottish Liberal Democrats will continue to press SNP ministers to get a grip of the housing crisis and increase the number of homes for social rent.

11,200 children would almost fill Scotland’s concert venue, the Hydro. It’s about a fifth of the population of the town where I live. For each of these children, homelessness means insecurity, disruption and uncertainty that limits their life chances. They could be placed anywhere in their local authority area and moved to another part of it at a moment’s notice. Imagine what that feels like to a young child. Being taken away from your familiar surroundings, school and support networks is hard enough once, but what if you have to wait months or even years for a permanent home and are constantly moved. Add to that that you may not be actually accommodated in a house, but in a hotel or hostel, sharing facilities with others. Read this family’s account in the Sun last week, of being made homeless after their father lost his job as a forklift truck driver because of a back injury.

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Tim Farron writes… “Help me to help the fight against homelessness”

This week is the 50th anniversary of the ground-breaking BBC film Cathy Come Home, the gripping and controversial 1966 film about poverty and homelessness.

It tells the story of Cathy and Reg, a couple with three young children who find their life spiralling into poverty when Reg loses his job. Cathy is left homeless and her children are taken away.

The film had a profound impact on me as a teenager. I watched it and decided to join Shelter. Then I realised I could do even more by getting involved in politics.

Although in the last 50 years there have been some changes, …

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Homelessness in 2016 – a fringe event in Brighton and how you can help

Homelessness FringeFollowing Saturday’s successful motion on tackling homelessness, London Liberal Democrats hosted a fringe event on homelessness in 2016. Despite being up against both Tim Farron and Nick Clegg fringes, the room was packed and it was standing room only at the back!
Alice Ashcroft from Crisis kicked off the debate by outline what is happening in Parliament, particularly focusing on the Homelessness Reduction Bill, more details of which are below. Councillor Jayne McCoy then outlined the problems local government faces when dealing with homelessness especially when facing budget cuts from the Government.
Simon Grainge then described the work of Emmaus which has 28 communities across the UK housing over 750 people. Emmaus believes overcoming homelessness means more than a roof over your head. That’s why Emmaus supports people to work their way out of homelessness, providing meaningful work as well a stable home for as long as someone needs it. Emmaus also helps the state and society as for every £1 spent with Emmaus, there is an £11 return on investment, with social, environmental and economic benefits.
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We need to be impatient to end the scourge of rough sleeping

Rough sleeper by BlodeuweddThere occasionally comes a time when it is important to state an aspiration. To rise above the detail and say what a particular situation should be, then work out a roadmap to get there. To do so risks criticism for being simplistic and naïve – but so be it.

That is where I find myself with people who are sleeping rough, including in tents.

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Brian Paddick on Homelessness, Domestic Violence and Social Exclusion: “We need a change of attitude in society and across the political spectrum”

brian-paddickBrian Paddick — former Deputy Assistant Commissioner in London’s Metropolitan Police Service, twice Lib Dem candidate for Mayor of London and now a Lib Dem peer — spoke in this week’s House of Lords debate, ‘Women: Homelessness, Domestic Violence and Social Exclusion’. Here’s what he said…

Lord Paddick (LD): … As the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leicester has already said, the issues of homelessness, domestic violence and social exclusion of women are linked. In particular, it is male violence against women that lies behind many of these problems. For example, as my noble friend Lady Tyler of Enfield said, the homeless charity, St Mungo’s, reports that half of its female clients have experienced domestic violence compared with only 5% of its male clients. Research already referred to by the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, shows that between 50% and 80% of women in prison have experienced domestic or sexual violence. Two-thirds of domestic violence survivors say that their problematic substance misuse began following domestic violence. The evidence is compelling, not only that women are disproportionately victims of domestic violence and abuse, almost always but not exclusively perpetrated by men, but that violence and abuse lies behind much of the homelessness and social exclusion faced by women.

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Olly Grender on Homelessness, Domestic Violence and Social Exclusion: “Housing supply lies at the heart of the solution of some of these complex issues”

olly grenderOlly Grender — former director of communications for housing charity Shelter, now a Lib Dem peer — spoke in this week’s House of Lords debate, ‘Women: Homelessness, Domestic Violence and Social Exclusion’. Here’s what she said…

Baroness Grender (LD): My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Baroness, Lady King of Bow, for initiating this debate. I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Rebuck, and the noble Lord, Lord Farmer, on their moving and inspirational speeches. We look forward to many more. I also take this opportunity to congratulate my noble friend Lady Garden of Frognal on her return to the government Benches. It will not surprise her to hear me, as a woman on these Benches, say the more the merrier—more please.

The noble Baroness, Lady King, has managed to take three complex areas of social policy and combine them in one impressive debate. They are complex in part because the reasons behind the homelessness of women are sometimes hard to detect and far too often hidden away. They are complex indeed, but at the heart of this debate is a very simple truth, which is that there is a terrible cost when a woman has no home, no escape from violence and no apparent way back from social exclusion, as was so movingly described by the noble Baroness, Lady Newlove. It is likely that the cost is not just to her but to the children she may have with her, and to us as a nation as they grow up.

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Lord Roger Roberts writes…Don’t cut funding for charities which help homeless migrants

Homelessness among Central and Eastern European migrants in London is a notoriously difficult issue to tackle. Success stories are few and far between. For this reason, I was extremely concerned to learn that two London councils are cutting their funding to one of the most effective charities that deals with this issue. The charity is Barka UK.

I am President of Friends of Barka UK. Today in the Lords I will question the Government about their plans to continue funding reconnection programmes, such as those offered by Barka UK. I have recently founded the ‘Setting the Record Straight’ campaign …

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Opinion: Housing – winding the clock back

Friday 9th November 2012 could well come to be seen as a landmark date in the history of English housing policy. A key change introduced by the Localism Act 2011 came into effect. The Liberal Democrats are part of the Government presiding over the change. Is it a change we can be proud of?

Local authorities can now discharge their statutory homelessness duty by allocating households a tenancy in the private rented sector rather than in social housing. This has been an option for years. But until now to

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Daily Mail: it’s a scary place

As a paid up member of the liberal élite that’s ruining our country, I do like to pop over to Daily Mail Island every now and again to see what’s exercising the minds of Britain’s tablerati.

This week had two eye-poppingly awful pieces that I just had to pick up on.

Firstly, Leo McKinstry’s sensitive, and thought provoking piece deftly picking at the complex moral issues surrounding the execution in China of Akmal Shaikh: HEROIN TRAFFICKERS DESERVE TO DIE.

No, wait, sensitive and thought provoking it is not. For a line-by-line demolition of the mountains of crud streaming forth from the piece, …

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