Councils ‘turning away homeless people’, says charity

16 Oct 14

Local authorities often offer little or no help to homeless people according to undercover research into council provision across England by from charity Crisis.

By Marino Donati | 15 October 2014

Local authorities often offer little or no help to homeless people according to undercover research into council provision across England by from charity Crisis.

Crisis used actors who had experience of homelessness to test 16 councils, and found that some people seeking help were turned away with no choice but to sleep on the streets.

Councils are required to provide all homeless people coming to them with advice and assistance on finding a place to live, but only have a legal duty to house someone, they must be considered in ‘priority need’. Most commonly, this is people who are pregnant or have dependent children, but other reasons include those considered particularly ‘vulnerable’ as a result of disability or domestic violence.

 

However, the report revealed in 50 out of 87 council visits (57%), little or no help was offered, with some people not getting advice required by law.

Some councils failed to give an assessment or allow a homelessness application, which led to people with learning difficulties or victims of domestic violence are being turned away without help, according to the charity.

 

Launching a campaign for the law to be reviewed, chief executive Jon Sparkes said ‘homeless people who ask their council for help are being turned away to sleep on the streets, cold, desperate and forgotten’.

 

He added: ‘This is nothing short of a scandal. On top of the human cost, it is incredibly expensive for society, which has to pick up the pieces.’

 

Responding to the research, the Local Government Association’s environment, economy, housing and transport board chair Peter Box acknowledged the important role of councils in securing accommodation for homeless people.

However, he said that increasing pressures where making it more difficult.

 

‘The ability of councils to do this is only getting tougher as a result of 40% cuts to council budgets over the lifetime of this Parliament and a shortage of affordable housing,’ he said. ‘The council housing waiting list has increased by a third over the last 10 years to 1.7 million households and overall there were just 112,000 homes built in England in 2013.’

 

Box also added that councils could help more if current restrictions on housebuilding by town halls, which include limits on borrowing, were lifted.

 

‘It is in everyone’s interest to remove unnecessary barriers which prevent homes being made available to those people who desperately need them,’ he said.

‘Councils are keen to play their part in this and could go further and faster to support the development of badly needed new homes if government gave councils greater financial flexibility.'

 

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