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Two victories

This week, Crisis and Joseph Rowntree Foundation published the latest report from our state of the nation research on homelessness. The Homelessness Monitor shows how official homelessness figures are masking the true scale of the problem, with 280,000 cases of people facing homelessness last year – a 9% rise not reflected in the headline statistics. What’s more, without action, the situation is set to get worse.

This is very bad news indeed. But, in a gloomy week, we wanted to celebrate two important campaign wins.

First, we wrote a few months ago about the government’s plans to scrap the local welfare budget. Local welfare is a lifeline for homeless people. It provides desperately needed, one off grants to help people in emergencies who have nowhere else to turn. It can fund rent in advance, buys vital furniture, and can pay for food or electricity. We knew that the loss of local welfare would be a disaster for people trying to get out of homelessness.

The situation wasn’t looking good. Despite opposition from charities, council leaders and lots of MPs, the government were sticking to their guns and said there would be no extra money available for local welfare.

However, after a major joint campaign – over 900 campaigners from Crisis alone emailed the government to ask them to change their minds – the local government minister Kris Hopkins announced there would be an extra £74 million allocated to local councils to help fund their local welfare schemes.

This is still a cut of over £100 million from last year, and some of that money will go towards other council services. But it’s still a huge achievement and one that we’re very proud of.

Secondly, the government announced today that they will bring forward a new law to stop private landlords evicting tenants in revenge for complaining about conditions in their home.

You might remember this almost became law last year after campaigning from us, Shelter and many others – but Sarah Teather’s private members bill ran out of time thanks to two MPs who used an arcane bit of parliamentary procedure to ‘talk the bill out’.

This time, the government have tabled an amendment to the Deregulation Bill. This means it should pass without trouble and these vital new protections for private renters will be in law by the General Election.

With homelessness on the rise, it often seems like there’s no good news to report. But these victories will improve the lives of people trying to escape homelessness and private renters living in terrible conditions. Campaigning can make a real difference, and we want to say a huge thank you to all our supporters who’ve helped us get this far.