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Report warns homelessness crisis can’t be solved on a shoestring

An independent report has called for the government to adopt a new national housing and homeless strategy and devolve more powers to councils.

The Local Government Homelessness Commission (LGHC), which was established by the Local Government Information Unit (LGIU) says the recent dramatic rise in homelessness across the country is the result of a ‘national policy failure’.

It argues that the current funding for homelessness services is ‘piecemeal, unproductive and fragmented’and the only way to tackle the issue and address its root cause is a ‘long-term project’ with public sector organisations working together.

In particular, the report warns that homelessness is a much bigger issue than just people sleeping rough.

It claims for every two people sleeping rough on the streets, there are 98 in shelters, temporary accommodation, bed and breakfasts, or moving between precarious forms of accommodation.

The report says that ‘as a matter of urgency’ the government should commit itself to a coherent, combined housing and homelessness strategy with sustainable funding for local authorities to put preventative programmes in place, which must include a firm commitment beyond 2020.

It also argues that the Local Housing Allowance amounts to a ‘costly and inefficient transfer of public funds’ to private landlords and fails to achieve the goals of reducing or preventing homelessness.

Instead, the commission says councils should have the power to vary Local Housing Allowance rates to better reflect local housing market conditions, which would be a ‘far more efficient use of public money’.

‘Local authorities are tackling an ever-growing homelessness crisis in our communities on a shoestring, with less and less money to do so,’ said LGIU chief executive, Jonathan Carr-West.

‘The government can no longer expect local government to pick up the pieces.

‘Councils shell out vast amounts of money to house people in expensive temporary accommodation or to meet skyrocketing private rents. Something has to give, and we argue that it should be the UK’s overly centralised system of governance. Our report calls for greater devolution of powers to build houses, to combine budgets and control and vary the welfare regime so that it better reflects local housing markets.’

The leader of Sevenoaks District Council and co-chair of the LGiU’s Homelessness Commission, Cllr Peter Fleming added: ‘The timing of what has been an in-depth look at the current homelessness situation in this country couldn’t have been more appropriate, with the impact of the Homelessness Reduction Act being felt across local government this was an opportunity to look at different solutions for what has become an intractable problem in many communities.

‘The LGIU saw this as a valuable piece of work and has been instrumental in bringing different perspectives around the table to help produce the report and its recommendations.’

Photo by Leroy_Skalstad (Pixabay)

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