DCLG ‘unacceptably complacent’ on homelessness

20 Dec 17

The government has been “unacceptably complacent” in its response to a growing homelessness crisis in England, according to the Public Accounts Committee.

A PAC report, released today, criticised the “light touch” approach the Department for Communities and Local Government had shown, while councils spent around £1.1bn on preventing homelessness  and temporary accommodation in 2015/16.

Spending by councils on prevention peaked at £365m in 2013/14 and fell to £303m in 2015–16.

During the same time periods, spending on temporary accommodation rose from £622m to £845m.

The report said: “Local authorities are finding it harder to provide advice and assistance that will effectively prevent people from becoming homeless, and are having to divert more of their funding into tackling homelessness after it occurs.”

It said the extent of homelessness across England was a “national crisis”.

It concluded: “It is appalling that at any one time there are as many as 9,100 people sleeping rough on our streets.

“More than 78,000 households, including over 120,000 children, are homeless and housed in temporary accommodation, which can often be of a very poor standard.”

The PAC found the limited action taken by DCLG in working with local authorities to tackle homelessness had “clearly failed”.

It called on the department to publish a cross-government strategy for reducing homelessness that sets out clear targets by the end of June 2018.

PAC chair Meg Hillier said: “As we approach Christmas there are thousands of children in temporary accommodation – a salutary reminder of the human cost of policy failure.

“The government must do more to understand and measure the real-world costs and causes of homelessness and put in place the joined-up strategy that is so desperately needed.”

She believed the government must better address the shortage of realistic housing options for those at risk of homelessness or already in temporary accommodation.

Hillier added: "More fundamentally, it means getting a grip on the market’s failure to provide genuinely affordable homes, both to rent and to buy.

“There are practical steps it can take now – for example, targeting financial support on local authorities with acute shortages of suitable housing, rather than those councils which are simply ready to spend – that would make a real difference to people’s lives.”

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