The LGA’s plan for the first 100 days of the next Government gives much needed attention to the housing affordability crisis and is right on the money, so to speak, to focus on delivering more new homes at a price everyone can afford. A lack of decent housing which is really affordable for all is the biggest barrier holding back people trying to move on from homelessness, and the housing shortage, the decreasing availability of social housing and soaring rents are all damaging efforts to prevent homelessness.
Since April 2010 councils in England have dealt with more than 436,000 homelessness applications. Rough sleeping in England has risen by 37% and the total number of people sleeping rough in London every year is up 64%. It is a scandal that a safe place to call home is out of reach for so many. The next Government must prioritise a long term plan for ending the housing crisis within a generation.
The next Government should also address the uncertain future facing vulnerable people who need a bed and also support to get off the streets, work through their problems, and live independently. Sweeping cuts are threatening the future of this vital support, which is why we want to see a national strategy that provides a long term vision for supported housing, setting a flexible framework for local delivery, but with clear expectations about the standards, purpose and need for supported housing services.
We agree with the LGA that employment skills and back to work support must be more integrated with local housing and health services in order to better help people facing significant barriers to employment, including people who are homeless or have experienced homelessness. The next round of Government employment programmes must be better at identifying and supporting homeless people, with contracts set up to recognise progress towards employment, not just hard job outcomes.
Finally, we want to see more action to improve homeless health. People who are homeless have worse health than most, yet they find it harder to get help. Our evidence suggests that the average age of death for men who die while they are homeless is 47, and for women it’s just 43. We want to see a commitment from all Health and Wellbeing Boards to measuring, understanding and meeting the health needs of homeless people in their local area. Ensuring local health services are welcoming and easily accessible to homeless people can reduce pressure on acute services and, more importantly, save lives.
Over the course of the next Parliament we will be looking for more housing available to people who are or who have been homeless, for more people who have experienced homelessness to find and sustain work, and for homeless people to live longer. Action in the first 100 days towards achieving all this wouldn’t be a bad start for the next Government.