A new Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report says there is an urgent need for a joined up strategy to help people and address the underlying causes of homelessness. PAC says the extent of homelessness across England is a national crisis, with 9,100 sleeping rough on the streets. Meanwhile, 78,000 households are in temporary accommodation and there are unmeasurable numbers of ‘hidden homeless’ who are housed by family and friends in shifting circumstances, but not captured as part of the official figures. PAC says the Department for Communities and Local Government’s attitude to reducing homelessness has been unacceptably complacent.
Since 2010, the number of households in temporary accommodation has increased by more than 60%, and since March 2011 the number of people who sleep rough has risen by 134%.
PAC says the limited action that the Department for Communities and Local Government has taken has lacked the urgency that is needed and its ‘light touch’ approach to working with the local authorities tackling homelessness has clearly failed.
PAC says while the new Homelessness Reduction Act will no doubt help, it cannot be successful unless it is matched by a renewed focus across Government on tackling the twin issues of both the supply andaffordability of decent housing, which underlie the causes of homelessness.
PAC chair Meg Hillier says:
‘Delegating a problem is not a solution and we do not share the Government’s faith in the cure-all potential of the Homelessness Reduction Act…There are practical steps it can take now – for example, targeting financial support on local authorities with acute shortages of suitable housing, rather than those councils which are simply ready to spend – that would make a real difference to people’s lives.’