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Government to support Homelessness Reduction Bill 27/10/2016

On Monday 24 October, Sajid Javid, Communities Secretary, confirmed that the government will support the Homelessness Reduction Private Members Bill introduced by Bob Blackman MP.


The Bill requires local authorities to provide new homelessness services to all those affected, as well as those who are protected under existing legislation.


It will place a duty on local authorities to help eligible people at risk of homelessness to secure accommodation 56 days before they are threatened with homelessness. It requires councils to provide those who find themselves homeless with support for a further period of 56 days to help to secure accommodation.


The bill will also ensure that other local services refer those either homeless or at risk of being homeless to local authority housing teams.


The Bill was published on Friday 21 October 2016 and will have its Second Reading in the House of Commons on Friday 28 October 2016.


Unusually, the Communities and Local Government Select Committee has reviewed the Bill in advance of its Second Reading and has produced a report recommending changes to the Bill, which include adding domestic violence victims to the list of people for whose needs a local authority's advice must be especially designed to meet. The Committee also calls for consideration of a stronger duty for councils to accommodate certain groups within a reasonable distance of their last address, such as those with mental health conditions or with children in school.  


Among further changes recommended to the Bill by the Select Committee in advance of its Second Reading in the Commons Chamber on Friday 28 October 2016, were recommendations to:

  • Reword Clause 8: Becoming homeless intentionally because it is too broad and should be redrafted to ensure protections for vulnerable people in priority need are not weakened.
  • Revise Clause 9: Somewhere safe to stay to restrict the duty for councils to provide 56 days of emergency accommodation to those whose safety is at risk. It is not feasible for local authorities to provide accommodation to all homeless people.
  • Remove Clause 12: Definition of local connection. The Committee does not believe that there is consensus for changes to the rules.
  • Amend Clause 14: Reviews of decisions to restrict the scope of reviews because of the potential impact on local authority resources of a significant increase in such cases.
  • Reinforce Clause 17: Co-operation between authorities and others with statutory guidance to make it clear that the diversion of funds away from a body's primary duties is not a reason to withhold co-operation with measures to reduce homelessness.


Further information about the Bill can be found in a recent House of Commons' briefing paper.

The government's decision to support the Bill comes hot on the heels of the announcement earlier this month of a £40 million homelessness prevention programme to encourage innovative approaches to tackling homelessness. This includes:


  • a new £10 million rough sleeping prevention fund to help individuals who might be struggling to get by from ending up on the street; it will also provide rapid and targeted interventions for new rough sleepers, such as helping them to access employment and education opportunities.
  • details of £20 million for local authorities to trial new initiatives, responding to the specific needs in their communities and focusing on prevention at an earlier stage; these areas will work with a wider group of at risk people to help families and individuals before they reach crisis point - including through new resident advice services and outreach work with landlords and private sector tenants
  • a further £10 million Social Impact Bond programme has also been launched to help long-term rough sleepers who may be bouncing chaotically through the housing system - to address underlying issues such as poor mental health or substance abuse to help stop them from living on, and returning to, the streets.


In announcing its support for the Homeless Reduction Bill, the government claimed that the number of people found to be homeless is down by 58% from the 2003 to 2004 peak and that it has protected homelessness prevention funding that goes to local authorities, which will reach £315 million by 2020.


John Bibby, ARCH chief executive, comments:


"Although the number of people found to be homeless is substantially down on the 2003/04 peak, the fact is, as official statistics show, homelessness is on the rise and the number of people found to be homeless has increased significantly since the Conservative led Coalition Government was elected in 2010.


"Councils already do a great deal to help people threatened with homelessness and took action to prevent 50,990 households from becoming homeless in the period April to June 2016 and helped a further 3,910 "non-priority" households out of homelessness".


"The danger with this Bill is that, unless it's supported by the provision of additional financial resources, local councils will struggle to deliver the additional responsibilities placed on them by the Bill as it stands. ARCH would argue that the only long-term solution to homelessness is an increase in the supply of social rented housing."  

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