The fact that homelessness is rising in the UK is a source of great shame. Each individual instance is a human tragedy and it comes at a cost to wider society. Once people leave regular accommodation then often fall into difficulties mentally, physically and sometimes criminally.
There are really intractable and complex policy issues underlying the problem, but I think we have to be honest and say this is an area where we can and must do better. With a combination of more money and political will, I believe it can be done.
As Foreign Secretary I champion human rights across the world and often have tough conversations with other world leaders when we think they’re falling short, and on this issue I think we need to hold up a mirror and be honest that it’s not acceptable for a country as prosperous as Britain to be failing on this. In this country the right to a bed should be a basic human right.
So I want to roll out the Housing First Approach that has been trailed in the West Midlands, Liverpool and Manchester.
This approach operates on the basis of two key principles. That housing is basic human right, and that once homelessness is resolved other clinical and social issues will be resolved faster.
It essentially means adopting the following approach –
- Immediate or near immediate access to permanent accommodation for people on the streets without a housing readiness assessment.
- No preconditions of treatment access or engagement are required to get this accommodation. They get unconditional access to whatever treatment they need.
I don’t think we have time to wait for the results of these pilots. So I will commit an extra £30m to roll it out immediately in London and at least two other UK cities. That could help at least an extra 1000 people off the streets. This would be an immediate step-change but longer-term I will publish a full cross-Government strategy to use every lever at my power to eradicate this scourge.
This must tackle two specific problems.
Firstly, throughout this campaign I’ve said I want the Conservative Party’s great social mission to be to tackle the scourge of illiteracy. Currently a quarter of primary school children do not have the skills to read well – something that disproportionately affects people who go on to sleep rough. We have to end this injustice and I will be a Prime Minister who commits to ensuring this happens.
Secondly for too many, and for young people in particular, that is out of reach. Giving a whole generation a leg up on to the housing will be one of my priorities as Prime Minster. I will deliver homes to help 1.5million young people get onto the housing ladder, taking advantage of the massive hikes in land value that property developers currently benefit from when planning permission is granted.
Boris Johnson was also asked for comment.
Read more about the candidates’ record on housing and homelessness issues in this week’s Big Issue magazine.
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