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Housing

Andy Burnham wants homelessness to be declared a ‘national emergency’

The Greater Manchester Mayor has announced he will extend his A Bed Every Night scheme for another year

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham has urged the government to declare a homelessness emergency as he revealed the next phase of the city’s plans to tackle rough sleeping.

The Labour mayor slammed the government’s target to prevent anyone from living on the streets by 2027 as “hopelessly unambitious” and pointed to the success of his own A Bed Every Night scheme – which helps the homeless people of Greater Manchester by providing beds for rough sleepers – as a model for other areas to follow.

Speaking at Manchester city centre homelessness charity Mustard Tree, Burnham revealed that the scheme has given 1,423 people emergency accommodation with 480 receiving a suitable housing solution.

This is a humanitarian crisis is of our own making – and entirely fixable. We need to approach it with a new mindset and a new urgency,

That scheme will move into ‘phase two’ next month and will be funded for another year up until June 2020 while the mayor also confirmed that he will include plans to make it a permanent fixture in his manifesto for re-election next year.

“Last week Parliament voted, rightly, to declare a climate change emergency. But where is the declaration of a homelessness emergency?” said Burnham.

“Surely, when hundreds are dying every year on British streets, that is exactly what is needed. People in doorways is in danger of being accepted as just an inevitable and unchangeable fact of modern life. It can’t be allowed to happen.

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“This is a humanitarian crisis is of our own making – and entirely fixable. We need to approach it with a new mindset and a new urgency.”

The next phase of A Bed Every Night will focus on prevention and negotiations are ongoing with the Ministry of Justice to allocate prisoners a place on the scheme as well as working with the NHS for similar plans with hospital discharges.

Burnham also announced an ethical lettings agency, set up by Greater Manchester Housing Providers with support from Greater Manchester Combined Authority, to intervene in the private rental market and prevent people falling into homelessness. That will be in addition to a Good Landlord scheme to accredit landlords demonstrating good practice.

In the speech to mark two years in the role, he called on the government to fix the flaws with Universal Credit, scrap their ‘no recourse to public funds policy’ and introduce a timeframe for phasing out Section 21 eviction orders.

“When you face up to the fact that it costs public bodies a lot of public money to do nothing about rough sleeping, it creates a moral imperative for more urgent action,” said Burnham.

“We need a society that picks people up as soon as they fall rather than picks up the pieces after they have been left shattered for months.”

Centrepoint’s head of public affairs Paul Noblet has welcomed Burnham’s bid to improve the private rented sector.

He said: “Without action from central government, the private rented sector will remain inaccessible to the majority of homeless people across the UK, because Universal Credit rates simply don’t cover the cost of renting.

“That’s why Centrepoint is calling on the government to bring local housing allowance rates of Universal Credit in line with the cost of renting. Our welfare system should be helping people move on with their lives, not trapping them in a cycle of homelessness.”

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