I share the concern expressed by constituents about the impact of the benefit cap on homeless families. Too many people cannot afford a home, can barely afford their rents and, in the worst cases, are sleeping rough. Home-ownership has fallen every year since 2010, last year the fewest number of affordable homes was built for more than two decades and there has been a 36% increase in homelessness across the country. I heard about many of these issues first hand when I visited Liverpool’s crisis centre recently.
The government’s Welfare Reform and Work Bill would enable the benefit cap to be changed and reviewed at least once during each Parliament. During the Bill’s Committee Stage, my Shadow Frontbench colleagues tabled an amendment to exempt homeless households in temporary accommodation from the benefit cap after being assessed as having a priority need. Unfortunately the amendment was rejected by the Government.
Families living in temporary accommodation after becoming homeless can face a variety of challenges. This amendment would have alleviated some of the pressures facing homeless families and also relieve some of the costs of providing alternative temporary accommodation.
I believe in conjunction with the freeze in local housing allowance, cuts in social housing rents and a lack of affordable homes, the lower benefit cap risks exacerbating the housing crisis and homelessness.
I voted against the Welfare Reform and Work Bill in its entirety at Report Stage and Third Reading. The Bill will now progress to the House of Lords where my Shadow Frontbench Colleagues will continue to press the Government on this important issue.
Despite all the cuts faced by Liverpool City Council, it continues to support the homeless in the city, spending £12.4 million a year – more than any other core city across the country.