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, many of the same issues remain. We should be ashamed that in the 21st Century there are still people sleeping on the streets; many people are refused the support they need and are simply being let down.

There is quite simply a lack of political will to end this crisis, and the Government’s approach of reducing council homes and failing to build enough homes is making it worse.

I want to see real action to tackle the housing crisis, improve mental health services, and to properly fund homeless charities and local authorities so they can provide support.

A decent, safe, secure and affordable home is essential to being a part of society and the community you live in. It allows you to make a living, and keeps you warm and secure, yet most of us take this for granted. I stress again that it is outrageous that homelessness still continues to rise every year in this country. It needs to be tackled.

This is why next week I’ll be participating in the charity Centrepoint’s 2016 London Sleepout, swapping my bed for a sleeping bag to help give homeless young people a future. By sleeping out on a cold and damp November night, I hope to raise awareness and money to support Centrepoint’s work with those who face this ordeal on a daily basis.

Centrepoint is the UK’s leading charity for homeless young people, and along with its partners it supports 9,000 young people every year. They help 16-25 year olds into a safe place to live, give them a health assessment and plan support for their individual mental and physical health needs. We start them on a path to more independence and a job.

A team of members are joining me for this – will you join us?

The event takes place on the night of 24th November at the Greenwich Peninsula and you can register here.

Add yourself to ‘Team Tim Farron’ to join my group of enthusiastic Lib Dem anti-homelessness campaigners!

And up until lunchtime tomorrow (Friday 18th November), you can get £10 discount on the registration fee by entering the code GREENWICH10.

If you can’t attend but want to support the team and I, you can still use the ‘Give Now’ button on my fundraising page

Many thanks for all your support!


* Tim Farron is Liberal Democrat Spokesperson on Agriculture and MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale.

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  • I had to return to my hometown for a few days and was surprised to see two rough sleepers. I didn’t expect that in a small town.

  • Hi Tim
    Donation made (can’t get to London myself), but huge respect for you – leading from the front!

  • Lorenzo Cherin 17th Nov '16 - 3:34pm

    Excellent ! This is the kind of campaigning we need , from our party and its leader! Something other than on Brexit !

    Tim Farron you have our party’s enthusiasm , what we need is that of our media . Talk of more than just the EU more often and we can push better and together in order to try and achieve what we need.

    What we need is to deal with the many issues that are age old and unsolved . Homelessness is but one of them. That makes it one worth fighting on .

  • Joseph Bourke 17th Nov '16 - 4:06pm

    Hats off to Tim Farron on organising this event.

    The Housing crisis is the number one issue impacting virtually every family in the country, and it is becoming increasingly common to see ordinary working people, through no fault of their own, spiralling into the despair of homelessness.

    The BBC recently aired a documentary titled “No place to call home” –

    The broadcast features the housing situation in Barking and Dagenham (an area in which I stood as a candidate during the 2010 general election). The BNP had made significant inroads in the area prior to 2010, and it came as no surprise to me that Barking and Dagenham was the only London Borough to vote decisively to leave the European Union in the recent referendum.

  • Tyler moore 17th Nov '16 - 4:09pm

    The event is organised annually by centrepoint and takes place across the country, including Bradford, Sunderland and Manchester.

  • Eddie Sammon 17th Nov '16 - 4:50pm

    Well done for doing this. I think homelessness is one of the saddest things in the world, especially in colder countries like ours. In France, to create pressure, there is actually a charity who counts the amount of people who die on their streets. It’s about 500 a year. It’s done by the Collectif Les Morts de La Rue. Average age: 48.

    On political will: we need migration controls to solve this problem otherwise we will just get Calais-style camps propping up in Britain. There are other options, but they aren’t very realistic.

  • Jayne Mansfield 17th Nov '16 - 5:16pm

    I am sorry that I always sound so negative, especially as I admire Tim Farron and believe he has a good heart, but, when tried to find information on the ‘bedroom tax’, I looked at the information given by Shelter because I rate the organisation and its work highly.

    ‘ Shelter, whats wrong with the bedroom tax’ Briefing Paper 2013.

    I just cannot see any joined -up underpinning philosophy that would achieve the admirable but abstract stated aims in the preamble.

    I hope that people donate though. In my opinion, it’s far better to donate money to organisations like Shelter than to homeless individuals on the street. When I do see people in such wretched circumstances I buy food to give them, but never money.

  • @ Jayne, Tim Farron deserves credit for being one of two Liberal Democrat MP’s (the other was Andrew George) to vote against the bedroom tax.

    See : “The Guardian 12 Nov 2013 – The Liberal Democrat president, Tim Farron, and one other Lib Dem MP joined Labour in voting against the bedroom tax”.

    He later worked on others to change the Party’s position the following April even though still in the Coalition.

  • Perhaps, when we were in government, instead of the Bedroom tax, etc. we might have tried building affordable homes…Or are such aspirations only for opposition parties?

  • Well done Tim, this is such an important issue. I’m particularly pleased that mental health issues are being considered as part of the problem, and not just the mechanics of finding a place to live.

    May I also suggest that our housing policies don’t just need to provide extra homes, but the right sort of homes. Many of these will fall into the category of affordable, but we need attention on accessible homes. More bungalows and properties that are suited for people in wheelchairs or with limited mobility. There needs to be the right mix, so that families can up-scale and down-scale as required, without having to move to a whole new area.

    Older people should be comfortable knowing that they have options available to them when they decide that it doesn’t suit them to live in a big house, but they aren’t quite ready for the old folks home, or even sheltered accommodation. Sheltered accommodation, or assisted living, needs to be designed into communities as a positive experience, with different set-ups to suit different tastes and needs. I’d like to see sufficient assisted living facilities so that people, of any age, have somewhere safe to stay after an operation, without having to stay in hospital longer than required or desirable (for the individual or the hospital).

  • Jayne Mansfield 17th Nov '16 - 10:44pm

    @ David Raw,
    Good for him.

    I noted at the time my disenchantment with the Liberal Democrats Party set in, that he voted against raising tuition fees. Again good for him.

    My problem with the Liberal Democrat Party is that it is like the curate’s egg. I believe that the state has an important role in creating equality of opportunity. I do not believe that privatisation automatically lead to better services and better value for money. As a still wealthy nation, the chronic underfunding of our health services has been a disgrace. The people who were most affected and least able to cope with the austerity programme have been the hardest hit, and I find that unconscionable I have found myself out of sympathy with Liberal Democrat priorities.

    Whether Tim Farron can turn the party round and make it attractive to people like myself once more, who knows? I would like to think so, there are a lot of good people in the party with whom I have no argument.

  • Hi Jayne
    “The people who were most affected and least able to cope with the austerity programme have been the hardest hit”

    I agree with your underfunding argument (I have 2 family members who work in the NHS).
    I’m interested though in what you (and anyone else) think to the argument I often hear that in a wealthy country like the UK, it’s the squeeze on wages for the lowest paid that has arguably had larger impact than austerity per se in many areas?
    The problem for the Lib Dems is that the public believe this is caused mainly by immigration from Europe?

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 18th Nov '16 - 7:34am

    Tim, it is wonderful that you are raising awareness of the continuing tragedy of homelessness, and that you are doing something about it, too – action as well as words. You are providing a shining example of what liberalism in action should be – and Christianity in action too.
    When Cathy Come Home was first shown, in 1966, many people were profoundly shocked to realise that it was possible for a young family to become homeless through no fault of their own. Many of them had vaguely assumed that that was something that might have happened about fifty years previously – in about 1916 – but not “nowadays”.
    The film still evidently had the power to shock twenty years later, when it was repeated, and when Tim Farron saw it and was inspired by it.
    But if it was repeated now, although it would still be just as powerful and moving, the reaction of many people would be likely to be “how terrible things were back in 1966”.
    Perhaps we need a “remake” of Cathy Come Home, set in 2016, showing how a modern young family become homeless through no fault of their own. Then perhaps people would be shocked into action.

  • Daniel Walker 18th Nov '16 - 7:48am

    @expats According to Nick Clegg, he did try to raise the possibility of building more Council houses, but Osborne and Cameron were having none of it.

  • Simon Freeman 18th Nov '16 - 8:42am

    What Tim Farron is doing is great. In Sheffield the number of Rough Sleepers declined in the Labour Govt years but in the past 6/7 years there are more and more people sleeping in doorways. Jayne Mansfield says a lot I cam empathise with-give to Homeless Charities but not individuals asking for money. The Bedroom Tax was grossly unfair and yes the state has role to play in making society more equal. One of the biggest issues for me is the growing gap between top and bottom in society. Too many tax cuts, far too much tax avoidance and evasion which nobody is doing anything about-the result of which is NHS and Local Government services are underfunded. Good to see Norman Lamb on TV with Alastair Campbell highlighting Mental Health Issues last night- that is a grossly underfunded area. Good to see a bit of cross-party working as well.

  • Daniel Walker 18th Nov ’16 – 7:48am……….@expats According to Nick Clegg, he did try to raise the possibility of building more Council houses, but Osborne and Cameron were having none of it…..

    So, apart from sitting next to Cameron/Osborne , smiling and nodding along at every word, what use was he?

  • Richard Warren 18th Nov '16 - 10:48am

    Good for you Tim.

    I help out at a foodbank and homeless drop-in centre. We get 60 people in the morning drop-in. So many homeless people have mental health problems. We even have a 70-year old homeless man with Leukaemia who we’re trying to get the council to house. Seems the Tory-run council has £250,000 to spare for Zac Goldsmith’s by-election, but not for housing sick, elderly residents!

    Only 950 council homes built in 2015/16 nationally, that’s NATIONALLY! Apologies for the capital letters, but we really do need to do something about homelessness and foodlessness NOW!

  • Jayne Mansfield 18th Nov '16 - 11:46am

    @Mike S,
    In my opinion, they are linked. Those on the lowest incomes are also those most rely on benefits that have been cut, and those most likely to feel the pain of increase VAT on goods. They are also the people most likely to use public services. I have an age -related eye condition so I no longer drive, I use public transport and I listen to other passengers talking to companions about the way their lives,or the lives of family, neighbours or friends have become immeasurably harder.

    People on hourly contracts, the insecurity of not knowing whether one is going to get work from one day to the next etc. A stress that in my opinion, has been facilitated and enabled by two- faced politicians who claim to be supporters of the family and family values.

    The fiscal changes made by the coalition in 2010 were about getting more people into work and they have succeeded , but at what cost? We have ATOS and the effect they have on the sick and disabled. As one wag put it, we should be commending ATOS for the miracles they perform , those judged for years as chronic sick or disabled and therefore unable to work for many years , are miraculously cured after an interview with an ATOS employee.

    i don’t believe that the way the most vulnerable have been treated has anything to do with immigration. What I do believe, is that the hypocrisy of some politicians and employers is rancorous. A diversionary ‘blame the immigrant’ culture serves their interests very well.

    I would like to say that I am sorry for this rant, but that would be dishonest. I’m rather pleased that at my age I still have the energy for one. The deepening economic and social injustice in our country, has put an end to what was for me, a rather pleasant, post -retirement, geriatric complacency.

  • Jayne Mansfield 18th Nov '16 - 11:57am

    @ Mike S,
    I missed out the words judged for years by their GPs as unfit for work. …. are miraculously cured.

    I always muddle the humorous comments of others when I try to re-tell them, which is why I have learned not to repeat jokes that I have heard..

  • Lorenzo Cherin 18th Nov '16 - 1:19pm


    Much of what you say makes sense , but your apportioning of blame is sometimes far too much against the coalition and this party , and not as bi partisan as it should be.

    Atos were signed as the provider or implementer of the work capability test by the Labour government , who devised the test ! Yvette Cooper was keen on the whole approach. Later of course she changed her tune.

    The coalition ended the contract of Atos.

    The so called bedroom tax , is a reduction in the weekly housing benefit , if a tenant is getting that , for an extra room no longer deemed to be necessary . That does not make it good , but it explains things rationally and gets us away from irrational exagarated criticism. It does not force people to move , which the councils could do , it makes them think about the need of extra space. Councils , often overly loved by this party’s left , are often intransigent and inflexible and need not be.

    There is , as this article and comments make clear , a terrible shortage of social housing. Why should someone who has been in , say a three bedroom house with a family now grown and moved out , feel , having never bought that house , they have a right to it now , rather than , say , a one bedroom flat or smaller than a house at least , considering it is supposed to be social housing for those with the greatest need.

    The policy was implemented on the sly in the private sector for a generation. I know , after a car accident that meant my wife and I have been no stranger to disability issues and hardship, we were the victim of it . In boom times, and despite explaining we needed the second bedroom as my wife had an orthopedic bed and sleeping was painful , our housing benefit during that period when we were in most difficulty was considerably less , we were deemed only to need a one bedroom flat ! We move , at our own expense .Under a spending obsessed Labour government and Labour council !

    There is a lot of mistaken presumption about the politics of recent years. I criticise the coalition . But no more than latter New Labour !

  • Lorenzo Cherin…….The so called bedroom tax , is a reduction in the weekly housing benefit , if a tenant is getting that , for an extra room no longer deemed to be necessary……. That does not make it good , but it explains things rationally and gets us away from irrational exagarated criticism. It does not force people to move , which the councils could do , it makes them think about the need of extra space………There is , as this article and comments make clear , a terrible shortage of social housing. Why should someone who has been in , say a three bedroom house with a family now grown and moved out , feel , having never bought that house , they have a right to it now , rather than , say , a one bedroom flat or smaller than a house at least , considering it is supposed to be social housing for those with the greatest need……

    As has been said many, many times, the policy is defensible ONLY IF there are smaller properties available…However, as has (again) been said many, many times, there are, more often than not, NO smaller homes available…

  • Catherine Royce 18th Nov '16 - 1:30pm

    If you want the up to date version go and see I, Daniel Blake -it’s brutal.

  • Stephen Johnson
    I think your comment at 12.00pm, forms a practical and reasonable policy outline on social housing to raise the numbers, and affordability in council housing. Maybe a couple of additions to help with ‘fluidity’, of occupancy.?

    1. All new council tenancies should be a max of 15 years. Long enough for a material change in most family circumstances.

    2. The tenant should receive an automatic family review after 10 years [of their total 15 years], to re-asses their updated housing needs.

    3. This automatic family needs review will, in aggregate, give useful data to further council house building strategies and needs.

    4. After their 10 year review, the head of household should be sent periodic letters with offers of more appropriate houses for their needs, for the remainder of their 5 year term. Those offers, should include [if required] properties which are specially adapted for disabled [using grant funding from the mandatory Disabled Adaptations Grant funding].

    5. As an incentive to move to a smaller property, the tenant should be assured of their housing benefit continuing at the level of the larger house that they vacate, for the remainder of their 15 year tenancy term.

    6. For tenants who take up the offer of a more suitable property, there should be an assumed tenancy continuation [at the end of the first 15 years], of another 15 years at the rent rate of the new property. This would also include another subsequent 10 year review.

    7. If they do not make good use of the 5 years notice, a final letter and final offers of suitable housing at year 14, with a final legal notice of their requirement to vacate the property and find their own housing needs at the finish of year 15 of their tenancy.

    As an aside,..these are the kinds of problems, which need a lot less ‘hand waving’ and more [sleeves rolled up], thought through detail, as per Stephen Johnson.?

    More policy,… less placards, please.?

  • JDunn
    Now this is much more inspiring – starting to sound less like a talking shop and more like a proposal making forum

  • It’s so sad when you hear the real stories, rather than statistics, so thanks for your contribution Richard. I agree that more council houses are required, but focusing on those numbers alone can be a bit of a red herring, and those figures can be abused for political point scoring, rather than considering the housing issues as a whole and the best, most practicable ways to address the gaps.

    We have most control over council houses, but good quality social housing is just as good, and can bring additional flexibility. Local authorities releasing land to private developers on the proviso that they build an agreed mix of housing that addresses local needs, is another option. Then there is the possibility of buying back privately owned housing stock, in particular in areas that need a lot of investment, with properties in need of refurbishment. Being able to co-ordinate the sprucing up of a previously run-down area is something that requires the input of local authorities.

  • I meant to add, that I agree with you too JDunn that we need some affirmative action to ensure that we are getting the best use from our social housing stock. The implementation of the bedroom tax was bungled, but the basic concept that small families shouldn’t be hogging large houses is fair. However, the biggest failing was not ensuring that these smaller families had suitable smaller properties to move to, or help doing so. I also have issues with some of the criteria for who was allowed their own bedroom, and that it was applied too quickly.

    Fundamental to any kind of scheme to encourage people into the most appropriate housing for their needs is having the appropriate housing available, and giving people the chance to plan, and if need be – helping them to plan for it.

  • nigel hunter 18th Nov '16 - 11:21pm

    I hope the party has heavily published this in the press, media.

  • Jayne Mansfield 18th Nov '16 - 11:47pm

    @ Lorenzo,
    I supported the Liberal Democrat party in 2010 as I had done in previous elections. The reason that I am so critical of the Liberal Democrats is that I expected better of them.

    May I point out that although coalition ministers inherited the Asos contract from Labour, in 2010 they extended the contract for a further 5 years and in 2011 coalition ministers ordered a rapid and massive extension of the test to reassess 1.5 million existing claimants, this despite the advice of their own expert advisor Professor Harrison who advised that this extension should be delayed until the ‘inhumane and mechanistic’ test could be improved.

    In 2014 it was announced that Atos would quit before the end of its contract which was due to expire in 2015. From what I can gather the parting of the ways was mutual, the contract was undeliverable and therefore it had proved PR disaster for the company.

    The effects of the Work Capability Assessment on individuals who were deemed fit to work but clearly were not according to their own GPs assessment, and the tragedy of what subsequently happened to some, cannot and should not, be glossed over.

    There is nothing irrational about well -directed, well- deserved criticism.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 18th Nov '16 - 11:48pm


    I agree with you , which is the reason I said what I said does not make it good , but it does explain the chronology !

  • Lorenzo Cherin 19th Nov '16 - 12:13am


    I think you too misunderstand me , I cannot criticise any who themselves go hard on the coalition for the reasons you , and expats , and I , all agree, the Tories pushed or pulled this party to the right where we do not belong . That does not mean we now should be on the left , or let the Labour government off the hook , for moving to right of the spectrum, I was Labour off and on as voter or member to my early thirties , for the subsequent decade and a half almost , I have been a Liberal Democrat , because I am in the centre left and radical centre.

    All I want from anyone is fairness , and that means we must criticise any who do wrong . Sir John Major , and , Margaret Thatcher , were not draconian on these issues, the move to the right on benefits , because of higher volumes of claims and some abuse of the system,started later in Labour and continued , chasing the cuts right or wrong agenda. You are nor irrational to say what you say , I merely ask for more varied and rational debate and analysis.I am a consistent opponent of the Work Capability Assessment, I would scrap it altogether.

    Jayne , keep up the good work , but give the coalition partners some slack for being in one with some sly so called colleagues, and facing some hypocritical opposition in the green benches.

  • Jayne Mansfield 19th Nov '16 - 8:46am

    @ Lorenzo,
    I think that any difference between us is one of approach. I actually believe that before one can move on, one first has to acknowledge where one went wrong and show contrition.

    In this age so called ‘post -truth politics’, I am afraid that the major mainstream parties are too vulnerable to the charge , ‘What can you teach us about truth’. The idea that the lies and broken promises of politicians of yore was of a different order or magnitude, just doesn’t cut it with the electorate, politicians have opened themselves up to the charge of hypocrite. People are angry and their anger is blinding some to the reality of ‘out of the frying pan into a far far hotter fire’.

    I consider Tim Farron’s increasingly confident assertion of what he believes to be right refreshing and commendable. I think he has received more criticism and attempts to undermine him from those who claim to be Lib Dem supporters than he has from the likes of me. It now seems from polls that his passionate arguments regarding Brexit supports his approach, and that people are prepared to trust him to do what he says he will do.

    I want a strong left because I think that politics has moved too far to the right and the right is gaining momentum with terrifying speed. If I may link Tim Farron and Jeremy Corbyn in one sentence, what I believe they have to offer, is authenticity. A passion and belief so strong, they will not blow with the populist wind. For many, this over-rides many minor political differences.

    People seem to want a strong leader, we need to create an awareness and understanding that those who seem strong, for example Trump, are actually weak, and those the Right choose to portray as weak are strong.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 18th Nov ’16 – 11:48pm….Expats…..I agree with you , which is the reason I said what I said does not make it good , but it does explain the chronology !……..

    Thank you…I agree that you, Jayne and I are all ‘singing from the same hymn sheet’ (if in different octaves)…
    I am critical of the behavior of the parliamentary party’s performance during coalition…As David Raw pointed out, ONLY two Liberal Democrat MP’s (one being Tim) voted against the bedroom tax……
    There are plans being suggested (including J. Dunn’s); however, IMO, they are just re-arranging the deck-chairs on the Titanic…There is only one answer ‘BUILD MORE COUNCIL HOMES’….If an impoverished Britain could do it in the 1940/50s, it can be done…Councils could borrow at ridiculously low rates of interest and, with modern pre-fabricated structures, the required rate is achievable…All that is lacking is the will…

    Corbyn/Labour have proposed building a million new homes (half of which are council homes) and stopping the RTB ….Where we agree with him , we should say so…Policies are what we should be focussing on instead of repeating the ‘Friend of Terrorists’, ‘Not bowing low enough’, nonsense…Leave that to the Mail/Sun…

  • This is a very complex multifaceted issue.
    Alarge number of people who are homeless have dual mental health / dual diagnoses issues and mental health services in particular are seriously underfunded in this country.

    It is not simply an issue oh housing, but the trpe of housing. We see a lot of homeless people refuse to access homeless hostels, even where rooms are available , because they have a range of un resolved issues and a vulnerable to exploitation by other residents, as such they often make the ‘choice’ to remain outside the very syssten designed to offer support. Similarly the lack of supported housing now available means that a proportion of people who move through the system and gain their own tennacy ultimately loose their home due to lack of sufficient appropriate support to help them maintain their tennancy.
    There are mainy good third sector and satatutory agencies working with the homeless but until these core issues are addressed there will be a proportion of people who constantly go round and round the system at great cost to them selves and their communities.
    An exemple of the unwillingness to address this by some concills is the ‘ street sleepers count that takes place in my town every autumn.
    The rules are, all local hostels have an amnesty for anyone who may have been previously excluded from accessing a room. Staff can only patrol well lit main streets, anyone found in a sleeping bag can only be counted as a rough sleeper if they are in fact asleep as it is ‘ possible they may just be resting on their way home’!
    Not surprisingly my home town routinely has a rough sleeper count of zero….

  • Thank goodness Jayne is still raising the issues she is raising. The party’s sorry role on welfare dates back less than two years. It is hardly ancient history.

    Most of our MPs voted for the benefits’ delay (at the start of a claim) which has fuelled the demand for food banks. ALL our MPs voted for nasties like abolishing the Health in Pregnancy Grant.

  • The sleep out idea is harmless enough I suppose, though in my experience those sleeping out for one night, have a ball and enjoy themselves, they come away with little true insight as to the despair / terror that is often felt by people who have no option but to sleep rough, often cold, wet, hungry and in fear of physical / sexual assault and robbery. It is rather like attending one of those charity dinners where half the guests have a small bowl of rice, the other half have a full roast with all the trimmings; hardly gives you full insight into what it is to be starving to death. Still if it raises awareness, or more importantly results in additional action being taken then it can only be a good thing.
    I hope Mr Farron will be campaigning for additional specialist support for those services that are already working on this issue and understands that simply funding more bricks and mortar ( important though that is ) is not in itself the answer to entrenched homelessness and street sleeping. There are many other issues that need addressing alongside provision of appropriate housing stock. For example the disproportionate number of people who are former members of our armed services who end up sleeping rough is a particular issue in itself.
    Shout out to ‘No second night out’ ‘Street link’ and ‘Combat Stress’ three organisations that are doing fantastic work.
    It is indeed time for all political parties to step up to the mark on this issue, charitable organisations and individuals have been doing the heavy lifting on this issue for far too long.
    Finally a last shout out to the ‘Salvation Army’ who have been working to support individuals and eliminate rough sleeping for decades.

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