Homelessness Reduction Bill
Priority need category - a pregnant woman. Someone with dependent children. Someone vulnerable as a result of old age, mental illness or learning disability or physical disability or other special reason.
Intentionally homeless – an individual or household could have avoided homelessness. Therefore, the Housing Executive doesn’t have to help you if you left suitable accommodation that you could have stayed in or if you had to leave your home because of something you did or failed to do.
Homelessness Reduction Bill
Conservative backbench MP Bob Blackman has introduced a Private Members’ Bill, aimed at reducing and preventing homelessness, based on a report commissioned by the charity Crisis. In this report by Crisis, they outlined the following issues with the current system:
- The majority of single homeless people are not entitled to an offer of settled accommodation
- The support and advice provided to single people is often very poor
- People are often forced to crisis point before the local authority intervenes
- Failing to prevent homelessness has a significant financial cost to both national and local government
Since the 1977 Homeless Persons Act the council has had a ‘duty’ to house those who are; in the priority need category, legally homeless and deemed unintentionally homeless. The only duty the council have to those homeless and not in the priority need category is to provide advice and assistance.
The homelessness reduction bill will amend the Housing Act 1996
- To strengthen duties on the council to prevent homelessness by ensuring suitable accommodation does not cease to be available to applicants threatened with homelessness for at least 6 months, regardless of priority need.
- Sets clear code of practise for the duty of the housing authorities to provide advice to those needing help to prevent homelessness.
- New ‘relief’ duty to help to secure accommodation. This requires local authorities to help to secure accommodation for all applicants who the authorities are satisfied are homeless and eligible for assistance, regardless of whether they are in priority need or whether they might be intentionally homeless. This duty can range from securing accommodation to ensuring the individual can stay with a friends or family member.
The Bill presents an expansion in the rights of single homeless people who are not in priority need. It aims to prevent non-vulnerable single persons being turned away without meaningful assistance. However, only if sufficient, suitable and affordable accommodation is available in the area. Which means that a single homeless individual, such as the clients of Turning Tides, will continue not be housed or provided with emergency accommodation as resources are limited.
It is clear to all, that although the extension of the homelessness duty to include those outside the priority need category is welcomed, without the provision of additional accommodation and council resources for local authorities with existing high levels of homelessness, the bill will be meaningless.
“The mismatch between the theory and practice of homelessness law will only deepen if this legislative change is not accompanied by significant changes to councils’ availability of suitable accommodation – if this is not addressed, we will be setting this Bill up to fail.” Crisis 2016
The majority of our clients at Turning Tides are single homeless individuals not in the priority need category, therefor this change in legislation is would be especially important for our clients and services.
“This is an historical development, it is the first time since 1977 that a positive duty has been put on the council to help non priority single homeless people to provide them with interim accommodation. The challenge for councils is that there will be more expected of them to support this group, but with low resources and homes to use. This becomes an opportunity for us as an organisation to work with the council to more positively prevent homelessness and find solutions for our clients. This helps us push forward with our mission to end rough sleeping in the communities we work in.” John Holmstrom, CE of Turning Tides.