It’s been hailed as a potential game-changer for homelessness provision in Britain. Now it’s been confirmed that the groundbreaking Homelessness Reduction Act will commence from April next year, with £61million government funding behind the bill.
Councils will use the funding boost to pay for the series of new responsibilities they must meet under the act. The bill – which became an official act of parliament in April – places a legal duty on councils to give people meaningful support to try to resolve their homelessness, as well as introducing measures to prevent people becoming homeless in the first place.
In a letter to councils, homelessness minister Marcus Jones MP confirmed that the first payment can be expected in winter.
This news comes in the wake of a stark and shocking warning that homelessness is expected to more than double by 2041. Research, carried out by Heriot-Watt University for Crisis, found that the number of homeless people in Britain could reach 575,000 by 2041 – up from 236,000 last year.
I believe this bill could present a bit of a sea change in how we deal with problems
Earlier this year, Big Issue founder John Bird welcomed the bill – which was first introduced by Conservative backbench MP Bob Blackman – saying it could “present a bit of a sea change” in tackling Britain’s homelessness crisis.
— John Bird (@johnbirdswords) April 27, 2017
Lord Bird wrote: “I am a supporter for this bill because I believe it could in some way present a bit of a sea change in how we deal with problems. That is, prevent the problem from occurring in the first instance. Prevention is the best of all cures ever invented. And this Homelessness Reduction Bill recognises the beauties of thinking ahead of the crash.”
Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, also said recently: “The Homelessness Reduction Act is a crucial step forward in fighting homelessness. For 40 years we’ve had a system that fails too many homeless people by turning them away from help when they need it most.”
Mr Jones also revealed that the government is reviewing the Homelessness Code of Guidance – which specific obligations local authorities must adhere to in supporting 16 and 17 year olds – and an overhaul of how “homelessness data” is collected, with a view to reveal changes next spring as the Homelessness Reduction Act commences.
The Conservative MP for or Nuneaton told councils: “The Government wishes to make regulations, including on duty to refer, under the Homelessness Reduction Act. These will be laid in the winter and my officials will work closely with the relevant government departments and their delivery chains to ensure effective communications and workforce support ahead of commencement.”
He added: “The current data collection system needs to be changed so that local authorities and central government can monitor the operation and outcomes of the new duties brought in by the Act. The change will generate much richer data both on homelessness problems and the impact of interventions, enabling better informed policy and resource decisions by both local and central government. You will also be aware that local authority data returns help government to understand homelessness pressures and challenges across the country, and inform decisions on the allocation of funding and resources.”