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Social Justice

Budget 2017: ‘We’re missing the bigger picture,’ says John Bird

Responding to the Chancellor’s Autumn Budget, the Big Issue founder says the government must do more to prevent poverty

Lord John Bird welcomed parts of this year’s Budget, but also warned the government against “missing the bigger picture” of poverty prevention.

The Big Issue’s founder urged the government to “weave prevention into the work of every policy and every department.”

Bird welcomed the extra support for vulnerable renters at risk of homelessness and the Housing First pilot schemes to provide rough sleepers with accommodation, but urged communities secretary Sajid Javid to now “go further.”

“Housing First can’t be the flagship policy if it’s not combined with an all-out effort to treat people’s inner demons; to cure their mental issues for good,” he said.

“Otherwise we’re just treading water – and in the long-term, all we’re doing is moving people from hostel, to A&E, to prison, to the streets.”

Where’s the extra cash to treat rough sleepers’ mental health?

Although Chancellor Philip Hammond set aside an extra £350 million to help the NHS through the winter, there were no measures to boost the early intervention needed to prevent health problems, and no mention of the need to improve mental health services for homeless people or society at large.

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“Where’s the extra cash to treat rough sleepers’ mental health?” asked Bird. “Will that form part of the cross-government strategy to eliminate rough sleeping by 2027?”

Lord John Bird also welcomed the fact The Big Issue’s fair access to credit campaign made it into the Chancellor’s Budget. The government will introduce a “Rent Recognition Challenge,” inviting companies to find new ways to include rental payment history in people’s mortgage assessments and credit scores.

“It’s a first step, and I’m looking forward to learning which additional policies are on the way – policies that could go so much further in offering fair access to more affordable credit to those who have the least,” said Bird.

He continues to push forward his own Creditworthiness Assessment Bill in the House of Lords – legislation aimed at helping millions of renters get fair access to credit.

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