General News

Bill to reduce homelessness receives cross party support

Sarah Green November 2, 2016

Homelessness Reduction Bill wins unanimous support from MPs across all political parties.

Cllr Geoffrey Theobald
Cllr Geoffrey Theobald

The private member’s bill, which places duties on councils to prevent homelessness, received backing on October 28 of the 100 MPs needed to get it one step closer to becoming law.

The Bill will widen the scope of who is eligible for support and transform the way in which homeless people are looked after in England.

Current rules, which date back to 1977, specify that only single mothers and fathers, individuals with mental health issues or victims of domestic violence and those who have recently left the armed forces can go to the front of the queue for housing assistance.

Conservative MP, Bob Blackman’s Government backed private member’s Bill will place a new duty on councils to prevent the homelessness of anyone eligible for assistance within 56 days, regardless of their official ‘priority need’ status.

Leader of the Conservative Group, Councillor Geoffrey Theobald, said: “Homelessness and rough sleeping is a huge issue in Brighton and Hove and has got increasingly worse over this and the previous administration. As a Group we have often expressed that as a Council we should be doing everything we can to help people who find themselves in such situations, often through no fault of their own.  This Bill, together with the Government’s recent £40m programme of measures to tackle homelessness, shows exactly that – a real commitment from the Conservatives in doing all we can to help those who lose their homes and provide them with the support they need to get their lives back on track.”

The £40m programme of new measures to tackle homelessness announced two weeks ago includes £20 million for local authorities to pilot new initiatives to tackle homelessness, £10 million for targeted support for those at imminent risk of sleeping rough or those new to the streets and £10 million in Social Impact Bonds to help long-term rough sleepers with the most complex needs.

Marcus Jones MP, Minister for local government who is responsible for homelessness, has announced the government will provide additional funding to cover the costs councils will face in taking on the new responsibilities to prevent homelessness.

However, a spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said it had not been decided how much funding would be made available, but it would be enough to cover “reasonable” costs councils will incur.

While backing the bill, Shadow Housing Minister John Healey MP has challenged the government to fully fund the costs councils will incur with these new duties and says more social housing needs to be built.

The bill will now go to the committee stage in parliament where it will be scrutinised by MPs.