James Sunderland calls for sustained Government funding and good local solutions to solve the problem of homelessness and he urges the Government to overturn the recent spending review decision to freeze the value of local housing allowance.
On the surface, the current picture of homelessness in the UK seems relatively positive, but the reality sits much deeper. Some £4.6 billion of non-ring-fenced funding has been given to councils to decide on their own priorities. A further £254 million was announced in the spending review for rough sleeping, which brings the total this year to £676 million. The six-month moratorium on evictions from March to September has also been extended for a further six months.
Of the several thousand households recently assessed in the veterans community, which is important to me, only 440 were officially recorded as requiring support due to serving in the armed forces—5% of veterans’ families. It is not true that veterans are mad, bad or sad, but any figure above 0% is too high. We must sort that out.
In my constituency, the rough sleepers unit does a fantastic job and has reduced homelessness from 31 people to 12 since 2019, and the remaining 12 have all been swept up and looked after. The unit aims to have referrals off the streets and into temporary accommodation within 24 hours, so I know that that is possible. The night shelters in Bracknell are run by a fantastic organisation called Pilgrim Hearts Trust. This year, due to covid, it cannot open so the situation is serious. It does a drop-in centre for meals and day care that includes a mobile doctor’s surgery. Again, it can be done.
The lived experience of those affected is what really matters. We must do more. It is a case of not just throwing more money at the problem, but effecting change through locally focused, effective measures. We know that more affordable housing is needed in the right areas. The decision in the recent spending review to freeze the value of the local housing allowance will hinder efforts to prevent homelessness. I urge the Minister to press for that decision to be overturned. If we can get homelessness relatively under control during the worst pandemic in memory, why can we not do that in 2021 and in perpetuity? Sustained Government funding, backed by good local solutions, remains the key to solving that awful problem.