Francesca Woodward

The Homelessness Reduction Bill – heading in the right direction

January 31, 2017 :: 2.59pm
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Last week the Homelessness Reduction Bill passed its third reading in the House of Commons. It will now head to the House of Lords, where it will be subject to further scrutiny before it can receive royal assent and become law. St Mungo’s Campaigns Officer, Francesca Woodward, gives us some insight into the progress of the Bill.

At St Mungo’s we see rough sleeping as an emergency in any situation. We also know it not only has long term effects on physical and mental health, but that it puts people in a position where they are in immediate danger. We know that people have died sleeping rough on the streets.

As statistics released last week show, the number of people sleeping without a roof over their head in England is increasing year on year, up 134% since 2010.

St Mungo’s has been working hard with other sector leaders to campaign for changes to outdated homelessness law that can leave people stuck sleeping rough. Those of you who have signed up to get campaigning emails from us might already know that we support the Homelessness Reduction Bill.

This Bill was introduced in May 2016 by Bob Blackman, Conservative MP for Harrow East. It sets out new statutory duties for councils to prevent and tackle homelessness through provision of appropriate and timely advice and support to anyone facing homelessness, not just those who fit a narrow definition of ‘priority need’.

If the Homelessness Reduction Bill becomes law, we believe it will be a major step towards ensuring support to prevent and tackle homelessness is available to everyone. It will fill a gap in legislation that means many people get little or no support to avoid the dangers of sleeping rough.

Thanks in no small part to the actions of St Mungo’s clients and campaigners, the Bill passed its third reading in the Commons last Friday 27 January. This was a tense morning of debate, with MPs raising concerns about the availability of affordable housing, unfair practices within the private rented sector, and the adequacy of funding measures for local councils.

For any new legislation to be effective, Government must ensure that councils can afford to meet the new standards set for them. However, the Bill does have the potential to have an enormous impact on the flow of people on to our streets, and that is why St Mungo’s is so keen to campaign for it.

We are pleased that the Government has decided to support it, and welcomed the announcement from the Department of Communities and Local Government of funding of £48m over three years to help councils intervene earlier.

We welcome the pledge made during the debate by the Minister for Local Government, Marcus Jones MP, to provide £13m of additional funding to strengthen the suitability requirements for private rented accommodation secured for priority need households under the new prevention and relief duties.

Any bill must go through several stages in both the House of Commons and House of Lords, where it is debated and voted upon before it can receive royal assent and become law. The Homelessness Reduction Bill still has to go through the House of Lords, but we’re halfway there. This is a positive step towards addressing the homelessness crisis in England.

Thank you to all of you who contacted your MP, or shared our campaign on social media. Your involvement and action make a huge difference and we can’t campaign without you. Keep it up.

We campaign to ensure that the voices of homeless people are heard by national and local government, policy makers and the public. Get involved in our campaigns to demand action on homelessness. Become a St Mungo’s campaigner.

Find out more about the Homelessness Reduction Bill.

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