Housing

Local council experts point finger at Whitehall for soaring homelessness

The Local Government Homelessness Commission said "piecemeal" funding from central government makes it impossible for councils to meet homelessness reduction targets

Homeless man

A group investigating the state of homelessness prevention inside local government has accused ministers of leaving councillors to tackle the crisis “on a shoestring”.

The Local Government Homelessness Commission (LGHC) was set up a year ago to examine how effectively councils were preventing homelessness.

In its report, published by the Local Government Information Unit (LHiU), it concluded that central government can no longer reasonably expect local authorities to “pick up the pieces”.

The commissioners, including co-chairs Peter Fleming of Sevenoaks Council and Simon Blackburn of Blackpool Borough Council, said the Homeless Reduction Act 2017 would not have impact beyond improving assessment processes without “significant strategic funding” for local authorities.

The report also blamed a dysfunctional housing marked, an “inadequate and badly administered” welfare system and consistently rising poverty levels for worsening homelessness.

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

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

Unaffordable private rents was cited as one of the biggest factors in rising homelessness – and CHAIN figures showed more people became homeless after being evicted or asked to leave than for any other reason. Commissioners also said most people received too little in local housing allowance to cover rent, and called for councils to reform their housing benefits.

But rough sleeping is “just the tip of the iceberg”, according to commissioners, as the dramatic rise in homelessness is “symbolic of national policy failure and the fraying of the social fabric”.

Commenting on the capital’s rough sleeping figures, Shelter chief executive Polly Neate said: “The rising number of people sleeping rough in London paints a truly damning picture of our housing system. High rents, broken benefits and the lack of social housing options have ramped up the housing emergency, and thousands of people having to sleep on the streets in the capital is the tragic outcome.

“Ultimately you can’t solve homelessness without homes. These figures show we need urgent action. We need to see major investment in new social homes, and we are calling for the government to build three million over the next 20 years.”

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