Homelessness crisis

'Revolving door’ of housing ministers hinders plans to eradicate rough sleeping

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The ‘disgraceful’ number of rough sleepers across the country demands a joined-up government response which has been lacking over a decade of Tory rule, Unite said today (February 27).


Unite said that the lack of purpose in tackling rough sleeping is demonstrated by the fact that there have been 10 Westminster government housing ministers in as many years since the Tories took power in 2010. The latest incarnation is Simon Clarke MP.


The union said that an extra £220m announced by the government to help tackle homelessness ‘doesn’t repair the damage done by years of austerity’.


The latest BBC research has suggested that more than 28,000 people in the UK were recorded sleeping rough in the previous 12 months – five times higher than official government estimates.


Unite national officer Siobhan Endean said, “Our members work with some of the most vulnerable victims of austerity – and they have fewer resources available to them, while the number of rough sleepers has risen.


“Decisions taken in parliament by MPs have a lot to do with the rise in rough sleeping and the rise in the numbers of deaths on the street,” she added.
“While the extra money announced by the government is welcome it does not reverse the years of funding cuts on services for those who find themselves homeless.”


Chair of the Unite housing workers’ branch Paul Kershaw said, “The lack of a joined-up policy to eradicate the disgraceful number of those sleeping rough has been massively hindered by the yearly churn of housing ministers.


“The funding announced today still doesn’t repair the damage done by years of austerity,” he added. “Homelessness is now a far bigger problem then it was before the Tories took power and has been exacerbated by the housing crisis and benefit changes.


“The government must provide the necessary resources to help rough sleepers specifically if it is serious about tackling the wider homelessness crisis.”


Unite highlighted some key facts on rough sleeping and homelessness:


  • Bed spaces in accommodation services aimed at helping people off the street fell from 43,655 in 2010 to 34,900 in 2018 –  a fall of nearly 9,000.


  • Spending by councils on single homeless people fell by 53 per cent between 2008/09 and 2017/18.


  • Total spent by local authorities on homelessness services has dropped by £1bn in total in a decade.

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