Our advice for the new government
After a strange few weeks in politics, all of us at Crisis are pleased to have a new government in place so we can get on with the job of working to end homelessness. We need to see work right across government to prevent and tackle homelessness, but here are our initial thoughts on what this means for three key players.
Our new Prime Minister has pledged to fight the ‘burning injustices’ in our society. And there is no injustice greater than the fact that every night in England, over 3,500 people sleep on our streets.
Ending rough sleeping is no small task – it is a major challenge that will take input from all government departments, local authorities, charities and civil society.
But there is something the Prime Minister can do right away to show her commitment to the issue. Bob Blackman MP has a private members bill tabled to introduce new laws to prevent and relieve homelessness.
We have written here before about the scandal of homeless people being turned away from their council to sleep on the streets when the seek help, and about the legal changes that could stop this happening .
Theresa May could show her commitment to social justice by promising to back Bob’s bill and introduce the new law we so desperately need.
Just three words of advice for our new Housing Minister: Build More Homes.
There’s a bit more to it than that, obviously. The government have been committed to increasing supply for a long time, but with a focus on building homes for ownership and helping people get on the property ladder. However, the impact of this and the policies brought in through the Housing and Planning Act will be devastating for the future of social housing.
We need a housing policy that addresses the needs of people on the lowest incomes for whom buying a home just isn’t an option. Building genuinely affordable homes to rent will act as homelessness prevention, as well as ensuring a clear route out of homelessness for people who need it.
Already Gavin has been talking about the need to supply new houses with ‘the mix of tenures people want’. It is vital that this includes homes for people on the lowest incomes who are struggling the most.
Our new Work and Pensions Secretary was perhaps something of a surprise announcement. We don’t know much at all yet about what he intends to do with the role.
Damien’s predecessors were undoubtedly committed to helping the poorest in our society, but not all of their reforms have had the desired effect. Good welfare policy making takes more than moral conviction. What we need now at the Department for Work and Pensions is a commitment to look at the evidence on welfare reform so far.
To take one example, there is clear evidence that sanctions policy is harming the most vulnerable claimants and is failing to help people back into work. Our research shows that homeless people are frequently sanctioned in error or because they are unable to fulfill their work requirements. Sanctions leave homeless people unable to pay for food and struggling with health conditions. In some cases, sanctions actually cause people to become homeless.
We have made recommendations for how to turn this situation around and ensure the conditionality system really helps people into work. We hope Damien will look at these closely.
There is also huge scope for Damien to take the social justice agenda within DWP and make homelessness prevention a key part of his plans. We are ready to work with his team to make sure the welfare system acts effectively to prevent homelessness.
There is a huge amount of uncertainty about what Brexit will mean for a whole range of policy areas. Like everyone, we are still assessing what the impact will be. But we are determined to take this opportunity of a new government and new ministers to push for a change of direction on homelessness.