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What we’ve learnt from the manifestos

The Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats, Greens and UKIP have all published their General Election manifestos this week, with the SNP to come soon. The polls are still showing the main parties neck and neck, so a hung parliament is likely. Any party could end up being influential in the next government.

With that in mind, here are my thoughts on what the manifestos tell us about homelessness, benefits and housing so far.

Homelessness can’t be ignored
Last year, we asked you to make homelessness impossible to ignore. And it worked. All 5 of the manifestos published this week make commitments to do more to end homelessness. With rough sleeping in England up 55% since 2010, this couldn’t be more important. Whoever is in the next government, we’ll be holding them to account on these pledges and asking them to review the help that single people receive under the homelessness legislation.

But as well as changing the legislation, if we want to end homelessness we need to look at the benefits system, employment support, private renting and building more homes. The manifestos aren’t as clear on these issues.

Benefit cuts for young people are on the table
Labour and the Conservatives, the two biggest parties and the most likely to lead a coalition, have both pledged to replace benefits for people aged 18-21 and out of work with a youth allowance. This could mean no access to housing benefit. At Crisis, we know that for young people who can’t live with their parents, housing benefit can be all that stands between them and the streets. It’s extremely worrying that this plan will almost certainly be on the table for the next government, and we will oppose any attempts to take housing benefit away from young people.

We don’t know what other welfare cuts are around the corner
The last budget committed the next government to making a further £12 billion of cuts to the welfare budget over two years. So far no party has spelled out how they might achieve this. It’s very hard to see how this amount of money could be cut without hitting vulnerable people and pushing up homelessness. We’ll be watching closely for more cuts to be announced after the election.

No one knows quite what to do about the future of the Work Programme
Crisis research and experience shows that the Work Programme just hasn’t worked to help homeless people into employment. Every manifesto commits to improving employment support, but they don’t go into much detail about how they would do this. A lot of the parties don’t have much to say about sanctions either, even though a cross party committee of MPs has raised concerns about how they affect vulnerable people. At Crisis, we’re experts on helping homeless people into jobs, and we hope the next government will listen to our advice.

Private renting still doesn’t get the attention it deserves
By far the biggest media story this week has been the Conservative plans to extend right to buy to housing association tenants. But there are actually more households living in private rented than social rented homes. The manifestos were a mixed bag for private renting – some had lots of detail, others didn’t mention it at all. With increasing numbers of private renters, high rents and a some private rented homes in appalling conditions, the next government has to take this issue seriously.

Housing is well and truly a major issue at this election
Before the 2010 election, only 5% of voters said housing was one of the top issues for them. This time, it’s 15%. Thanks to campaigns like Homes for Britain housing is higher up the political agenda than it has been in decades, with parties competing over who will build the most homes. It’s certainly not all good news – we need to see much more of a focus on social and genuinely affordable housing for people on low incomes. But this means that housing has to be one of the first things the new government thinks about when they sit down in the Cabinet Room.

You can read what Crisis thinks of the individual manifestos here