While the number of people sleeping rough fell by three-quarters from 1997-2010, it has doubled since 2010, and across England homelessness has risen by 50 per cent in the last two years. In fact, rough sleeping in England has increased for the seventh consecutive year,. The latest government figures show that an estimated 4,751 people slept rough in 2017, up 15 per cent in just bone year.
These figures are a terrible reminder of the consequences of seven years of failure on housing which has seen the lowest number of new social rented homes built since records began; billions cut from housing benefit; soaring rents in the private rented sector; and significant cuts to funding for vital homelessness services.
The Crisis report, ‘Home: No less will do’, examines the barriers single homeless people face accessing the private rented sector. Projects such as ‘Help to Rent’, assist tenants and landlords to set up, de-risk and sustain a tenancy, and I agree excellent initiatives such as these need support and funding.
At the Autumn Budget the Chancellor announced just three small-scale pilots to help the homeless, one of them in Liverpool, with funding which fell short of what homelessness charities had called for. 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.
At the General Election I stood on a manifesto that pledged a new national plan to end rough sleeping within this parliament, starting by making 4,000 additional homes reserved for people with a history of rough sleeping. The manifesto committed to safeguarding homeless hostels and other supported housing from Government cuts to housing benefit, and tackle the root causes of homelessness by increasing security for private renters with controls on rent rises.
I will continue to press the government to act on homelessness and to ensure security and support for private renters.