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Mears event presents true extent of homelessness crisis

Mears event presents true extent of homelessness crisis

The true extent of the homelessness crisis in the UK was presented recently at a Mears-hosted event by speakers from Crisis, Chartered Institute of Housing, Local Government Association, Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman and Heriot-Watt University.

 

Crisis Head of Housing Chris Hancock said their recent homelessness monitor showed discrepancies with official government figures showing a bigger increase in homelessness demand. The number of rough sleepers is increasing year-on-year – up nationally by 169 per cent since 2010 – and local authorities are struggling to cope.

 

However, there were reasons to be cheerful, he said, in particular because of the Homelessness reduction Act, which now places a statutory duty on councils to help people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. This could make a significant difference, he said.

 

Faye Greaves from the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) focused on the importance of local authorities and housing associations tackling homelessness together by working in partnership.

 

The Homelessness Reduction Act strengthens the legal framework, she said, but partnerships will be crucial to achieving its aims.

 

The CIH is currently rethinking the role of social housing in solving the housing crisis, she said. Only 17% of all dwellings in England are in the social rented sector, and the private rented sector is decreasingly for low income households. Local authorities and housing associations need to stick together to ensure limited stock is accessible & prevention activity is prioritised, she said.

 

Nick Porter from Local Government Association (LGA) and Tim Gray from Tim Gray Consultancy Ltd provided lessons from the LGA Housing Advice Programme, designed to support councils seeking to innovate in meeting the housing needs of their communities.

 

Some 41 Housing Advice projects were funded last year and local authorities are encouraged to contact the LGA to get involved this year. 

Neil Mackay, Investigator for Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman, introduced ‘Still no place like home? Councils’ continuing use of unsuitable bed and breakfast accommodation to house families’ – a follow-up to their 2013 report No Place Like Home.

 

He said that since 2013 the breakdown of private tenancies was now the single biggest driver of homelessness, with many families are becoming homeless, and the problems becoming more widespread beyond London.

 

The Ombudsman is receiving more complaints about homelessness, he said, and is upholding an increasing proportion of homelessness investigations.

 

Professor Sarah Johnsen from Heriot-Watt University presented the findings of ‘Ending rough sleeping: what works?’, an international evidence review commissioned by Crisis. She said that much of the research on rough sleeping is small scale and doesn’t evaluate interventions. The international evidence review sort to identify what does and does not ‘work’ to address rough sleeping.

 

The event was chaired by Mark Meehan, Chair of London councils’ Housing Needs Group. 

For the full reports from all our speakers, please follow the links below.