6% rise in rough sleeping condemned by Crisis
Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Central Government, Communities
Boris Johnson pledges commitment to end rough sleeping in London
A six percent rise in the number of people sleeping rough has been condemned by homelessness charity Crisis.
The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) today revealed that 2,309 people were reported by councils across the country as sleeping rough on one night in autumn 2012 - up from 2,181 in the previous year’s count. This is on top of last year’s rise of 23 percent.
Leslie Morphy, chief executive of Crisis, said: “In communities across the country real lives are being blighted by homelessness. To sleep out on the streets is a devastating experience, and it is a scandal that in 21st century Britain we are seeing more and more people left with no other option.
“We have been warning for some time now that the economic downturn combined with cuts – particularly to housing benefit – would drive rough sleeping higher. These figures confirm our fears and with a raft of new cuts coming in April, we think this is just the beginning.”
Today’s figures come as transitional measures for those affected by housing benefit cuts have come to an end and ahead of new benefit cuts in April that Crisis warns will drive homelessness yet higher. In April:
- Local Housing Allowance (housing benefit in the private rented sector) will be increased by inflation rather than with reference to rents
- The overall benefit cap will kick in a number of areas
- Elements of the Social Fund (which provides low income households with emergency support) will be abolished
- The bedroom tax will hit social tenants deemed to be under occupying their home
- Council Tax benefit is being cut
- All at a time when local councils across the country are cutting back on services to help people who become homeless, such as hostels and day centres.
Crisis recently published the second year of The Homelessness Monitor1 – a five-year research project undertaken by Heriot-Watt University and the University of York, which sets out that the combination of the economic downturn and cuts to housing benefit are starting to bite and that homelessness is set to rise yet further in the years ahead across England.
In light of today’s figures, Crisis is calling on the Government to:
- Reverse the cuts to housing benefit including those due to come in April
- Invest substantially in new social and affordable housing
- Ensure all homeless people get the help they need when they approach their local council for assistance including through homeless services being properly funded.
Jack Dromey MP, the shadow housing minister, said: “These concerning figures show that on David Cameron’s watch more people are sleeping rough on our streets. In the past year, there has been a six per cent increase in rough sleeping and a 31 per cent increase since 2010.
“In Opposition, the Prime Minister said homelessness and rough sleeping were a disgrace. But warm words in opposition are cold comfort to those sleeping rough if you fail to act when in Government.
“The country is facing the biggest housing crisis in a generation but the Government’s policies are making it worse not better. The Government was warned its policies risked increasing homelessness and rough sleeping but these warnings fell on deaf ears. What we are seeing now are the consequences of this Government’s failure, homeless people huddled in shop doorways and sleeping on freezing winter streets.”
Matt Harrison, a director of Homeless Link, the umbrella body for homelessness charities, said: “The harsh economic climate continues to add to rough sleeping numbers. Living on the streets is dangerous, harmful to your health and the longer you spend out the more your problems will multiply.
“It is more important than ever that we continue to invest in a safety net that gets help to rough sleepers quickly and supports them to get back on their feet. Where this has happened, people are more likely to spend less time out and are less likely to sleep rough again.
“With homelessness rising when many charities face cuts, councils need to continue to invest in services that prevent damage to individuals and communities. The public can also act when they are concerned about someone sleeping rough. Call StreetLink on 0300 500 0914 and help connect them to local services.”