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By Ryan Maynes, LCEH – Head of Policy

Designed By Sam Johnson   

Foreword By Cllr Sam Stopp, LCEH – Chair

LCEH Cover Final

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Foreword by LCEH Chair, Cllr Sam Stopp

When we set out on this campaign a little over a year ago it was with a simple aim: to end homelessness. Now we are pleased to present our manifesto to end homelessness, which we very much hope the Labour Party will incorporate into its next general election manifesto.

In the face of brutal Tory austerity, this aim has never looked further away and yet, therefore, it has never been more needed. When we announced our campaign, we noticed two things most of all. First, many people said we couldn’t deliver on our aim. We retain the belief that we can end homelessness, however, as do all of the major charities in the sector. There were, of course, many who thought Labour couldn’t build the NHS, introduce the minimum wage or introduce civil partnerships. All of those critics fell back into the abyss.

Second, we were overwhelmed by offers of help from Labour activists and trade unionists from across the country. It is upon their solidarity, energy and vitality that our outreach missions depend. We value their time, their ideas and, above all, their socialism, more than they will ever know. Without them, this would not be a campaign – it would be a mere talking shop.

I am indebted to countless people across the Labour movement for enabling this campaign to build into a national movement for change. Their names are listed below and the list is long and noble. I must, however, pay special tribute to the man who has compiled the very fine document below – Ryan Maynes, LCEH, Head of Policy.

The road ahead is long and bounded on either side by pessimists, denialists and Tories. Yet it is a road on which we travel with the entire Labour movement at our backs and with our hearts full of hope.

It is in that spirit that we present to you our manifesto to end homelessness. 

Acknowledgements 

I am truly grateful for the help I have received in creating this manifesto. That list includes, but is not limited to:

  • All of our LCEH volunteers, especially Pauline Ludwinski and Patricia De Villa, who give up their evenings to help feed and clothe rough sleepers
  • The LCEH organising committee, including our chair Sam Stopp, as well as Rebecca Wilson, Alex Angelakis and Philip Freeman
  • The GMB, especially Martin Smith and David Hamblin, who have done more for the campaign than anyone else and reminded us of the great work trade unions do that goes unnoticed
  • Our patrons, Teresa Pearce and Tom Copley, for their continued support
  • The major homeless charities, for their continued good work and expertise in certain areas that our campaign lacked
  • Everyone responsible for the Homelessness Reduction Bill, which will have a positive impact on the issue if passed
  • Experts who have given some crucial advice at vital moments, such as Barry Young
  • Prominent figures within the Labour movement who have been friends of the campaign from its inception, like James Murray, David Lammy MP, Lilian Greenwood MP, Wes Streeting MP, Jess Phillips MP, Tulip Siddiq MP, Jeff Smith MP, Ben Bradshaw MP, Ivan Lewis MP, Tom Copley AM, Florence Eshalomi AM, Nicky Gavron AM and Navin Shah AM as well as countless others

We are very grateful for the contributions of all of the above and will continue the struggle to end homelessness with their continued support.

The Labour Campaign To End Homelessness Manifesto

By Ryan Maynes, Head of Policy LCEH 

Lceh.org.uk

@labourCEH  

Homelessness is one of the most pressing social issues of our time. Since the Conservative election victory in 2010, rough sleeping has increased dramatically every year. Last year, rough sleeping rose by 30%. In London, where Boris Johnson pledged to eradicate rough sleeping by 2012, there has been a 126% rise since 2009. Rough sleeping is ravaging our inner cities and towns, and is set to rise dramatically given the economic uncertainty of Brexit and further Conservative rule. Yet the crisis extends far wider than just rough sleeping. Crisis estimate that there are over 275,000 homeless households in England alone.

Britain is facing a homelessness crisis on an unprecedented scale. With a Conservative Party unwilling to alleviate the suffering of the nation’s homeless, it is up to The Labour Party to lead the way and provide a consistent, coherent plan to tackle the crisis head-on. We need to be prepared to end homelessness when Labour returns to power in Westminster.

This is why we are asking The Labour Party to adopt five key pledges to begin the process of ending homelessness. Having examined case studies from around the world, as well as consulting with prominent organisations within the homelessness sector and senior figures in The Labour Party with specialist knowledge on the matter, we believe the following five pledges are vital in eradicating homelessness. The list is not exhaustive, as homelessness is far more complex and labyrinthine than can be summarised in five bullet points, yet adopting these five points would rapidly reduce homelessness and improve thousands of lives, as well as bolster the economy, and show the nation that we are the party of social justice, of strong values, and of compassion.

Adopting these five basic principles would be the most significant steps taken by any government anywhere in the Western World in ending homelessness. This will not be easy. Yet we are the party who created the NHS. We are the party who built the welfare state. We are the party who introduced the minimum wage. Now let us be the party that ends homelessness.

In the words of Aneurin Bevan, spoken on the eve of the 1945 General Election: “We have been the dreamers, we have been the sufferers, now we are the builders.”

Five Key Policies We Need The Labour Party To Adopt To End Homelessness 

  1. A government-led national structure involving all of the major organisations, including statutory and community sector organisations, dedicated to ending homelessness.
  2. Create a more effective registration system and information database of rough sleepers and hidden homeless to begin the process of rehousing.
  3. Implement more efficient preventative measures and early intervention programmes to stop homelessness becoming entrenched and end the cycle.
  4.  Enshrine the right to a home for everyone and begin the process of rehousing all of the UK’s homeless population, including those with complex needs.
  5. Launch a substantial and sustainable programme of public and social house building.
  1. A government-led national structure involving all of the major organisations, including statutory and community sector organisations, dedicated to ending homelessness.

The lack of coordination between the key groups involved in the homelessness sector, combined with draconian cuts to local authority budgets and welfare reforms by the Conservatives has left the nation with its worst homelessness crisis in a generation. This can be reversed, however, with a strong, centralised structure, that works from the top down and the bottom up.

There are three main components to this top down and bottom up approach:

  1. National and Local Government
  2. Major homelessness charities
  3. Those in direct contact with homeless people, rough sleepers and potential homeless people

Once Labour returns to power, a comprehensive approach to homelessness must be introduced that has senior members of the government working in conjunction with local authorities and public services as well as charities and outreach organisations.

This must begin at the top, with the Minister of State for Housing and Planning, as well as creating a Minister for Homelessness within the government. They must take the lead on homelessness, and coordinate action between other governmental departments, such as the Department for Work and Pensions, Department of Health and the Ministry of Justice, as well as devolved governments. With a dedicated team in government ready to tackle the issue, it will be far easier to combine the other elements required to begin the process of ending homelessness.

This must be coupled with greater cooperation between national and local government on the issue, and the installation of a Homeless Champion in every council in the UK. Local authorities already do a huge amount towards caring for the nation’s homeless population, but with renewed vigour and a clear agenda in place, they can be far more effective in tackling the homelessness issue. With a strong voice at all levels of government, a clear plan can be brought forward to eliminate homelessness.

Homeless charities must also be brought on board with this vision. Large charities such as Crisis and Shelter, as well as grassroots charities, have years of extensive research and experience, and will be vital in the process of ending homelessness. They have direct access to data on thousands of rough sleepers and hidden homeless, as well as specialists in every aspect of the issue. Working alongside the government and local authorities, with both sharing expertise and resources, will be key to ending the crisis.

Another vital component is the inclusion of those in daily contact with the UK’s homeless population. This list includes, but is not limited to:

  • Public services such as prisons, hospitals and the police
  • Hostels and shelters
  • Alcohol and drug services
  • Soup kitchens and food banks
  • Religious organisations
  • Trade unions
  • Community centres
  • Jobs and benefits centres

Through our outreach work, we havediscovered that one of the main causes of homelessness, in particular rough sleeping, was an individual ‘slipping through the net.’ Often many rough sleepers drift from one service to the next without cooperation between each service. A centralised approach, with greater communication between the government, local authorities and those in contact with the homeless population, is needed to be able to comprehensively tackle the issue.

We need the next Labour government to implement an effective strategy on homelessness that ensures cooperation between different services, with a top down and bottom up approach to ending the crisis.

  1. Create a more effective registration system and information database of rough sleepers and hidden homeless to begin the process of rehousing.

One of the flaws in the current method of reducing homelessness is an ineffective approach to working out how many homeless people there are in Britain. To effectively begin the process of ending homelessness, it is imperative that there is a centralised database, which tracks the number of homeless people throughout the country. This will allow a consistent strategy to be implemented, which will dramatically reduce the number of homeless people.

To do this, however, we first need to change the definition of homelessness and who is entitled to housing. At present in England, Wales and Scotland, only ‘statutory homeless’ people are entitled to housing. Crisis explains that to be classed as ‘statutory homeless’ an individual must:

  • Be ‘eligible for public funds’(this will depend on your immigration status)
  • Have some sort of connection to the area covered by the local authority, known as a‘local connection’
  • prove that you are‘unintentionally homeless’ (that it is not your fault that you became homeless)
  • prove you are in‘priority need’ (the definition of which varies between the different nations and which has been abolished altogether in Scotland) starred crisis page

Priority need can mean those with dependants, care leavers under 21, those made homeless by fire or flood, those who left home due to violence, those have been in care or the armed forces, as well as a host of other different reasons. What it does not cover, however, are single homeless people, as the government does not deem them to be in ‘priority need.’ As Shelter put it, ‘The council doesn’t have to offer you accommodation if you are not in priority need and is unlikely to do so.’ Those deemed not in ‘priority need’ are informed of the decision in writing, and barring a largely futile appeals process this is normally the end of the line.

This definition of homelessness needs to be radically overhauled. There are stories of rough sleepers not included in head counts as they were not lying down at the time of counting, and pregnant women not treated as ‘priority need’ as they were not pregnant enough. All forms of homelessness, including the huge numbers of hidden homeless people, must be included in further homeless statistics so that the true nature of the crisis is uncovered, and all must be given the right to a home.

With the correct definition of homelessness, an effective registration system and information database of rough sleepers and hidden homeless can be implemented. This exists to an extent in London. CHAIN, the Combined Homeless and Information Network, is described on its site as:

“a multi agency database recording information about rough sleepers and the wider street population in London. The system, which is commissioned and funded by the Mayor of London and managed by St Mungo’s, represents the UK’s most detailed and comprehensive source of information about rough sleeping.”

This database combines the research and tracking of major homeless charities and outreach services in London and provides the most accurate figures on rough sleeping available anywhere in the UK. While this is invaluable in tackling homelessness, it is not enough. To end homelessness, this must be implemented nationally, and extended to include figures on other forms of homelessness, including the hidden homeless. To ensure the most accurate picture of homelessness is uncovered, the true figures must be estimated correctly as opposed to glossed over. Too often governments are guilty of masking the true scale of the crisis and producing figures as a success. This malpractice must end.

We need a proactive Labour government that will redefine homelessness, invest in the collection and collation of the essential data, ensure all forms of homeless people are entitled to housing, and monitor trends and updated information to continue the battle against homelessness.

  1. Implement more efficient preventative measures and early intervention programmes to stop homelessness becoming entrenched and end the cycle.

The factors behind individuals becoming homeless are complex and intertwined, with causes ranging from socio-economical to geographical, as well as factors such as physical and mental health and government policy. As a result, implementing preventative measures to stop homelessness will be difficult. Nonetheless, various studies and reports, not least the House of Commons report on homelessness, have shown that there are specific measures that can be taken to drastically reduce the number of people who are homeless. This list is by no means exhaustive, but if the next Labour government implemented these recommendations, it would be the single greatest contribution to preventing homelessness since in the history of our country.

  1. Strengthen Tenancy Rights

Tenants in the private rental sector are often at grave risk of being made homeless. Landlords normally lease properties with tenancies ranging from six to twelve months, and have the power to evict tenants within two months by issuing a Section 21 ‘no fault’ possession notice. This injustice was highlighted recently by the excellent campaign on revenge evictions by GMB Young London. With some tenants struggling to afford their current rent, being issued an eviction notice in a society with rising rent prices and fewer houses may be the difference between struggling to make ends meet and being without a home. This has become one of the biggest causes of homelessness, as 30% of households accepted by local authorities in 2015 were as a result of losing their tenancy. This was at 13% just ten years earlier. We need the next Labour government to increase tenants’ rights, with longer tenancy agreements made a priority. 

  1. Overhaul Local Housing Allowance

Local Housing Allowance (LHA) is in place to help those entitled to housing benefit in the private sector. In most instances, LHA usually is not enough to cover the full cost of rent, often hundreds of pounds short per month. This is due in part to the Shared Accommodation Rate (SAR), which applies to single people in the private rented sector under 34 years old. According to Crisis, “SAR means that Housing Benefit is limited to a maximum amount based on what is deemed an appropriate rent for a room in a shared property.” Therefore, if someone is renting a flat, they will only be entitled the amount of renting a room in a shared property, which could be the difference of several hundred pounds. To make matters worse, the Tory government announced in 2015 that LHA would be frozen for four years even as rent prices soar. As a result, many people struggle to make ends meet, and are only a couple of pay cheques away from homelessness.

This problem is exacerbated by the current payment of LHA, which can go directly to the tenant to make the payment to the landlord. With a deficit in affording basic household goods, often LHA is misused elsewhere, leaving tenants short on rent. Many do use the system in place, but not everyone. More should be done to ensure that this option is stressed to all tenants, and should be replicated in Universal Credit and made greater use of for vulnerable households.

LHA also fails young people at risk of homelessness. Osborne’s Summer Budget of 2015 cut housing support for new claimants between the ages of 18 and 21, meaning some of the most vulnerable young people in the country are now without any significant help in finding a new home.

We need a Labour government to reverse the damage done by this Conservative government with regard to Local Housing Allowance. Labour must more closely match the level of LHA to the cost of renting the property. The option to have payments made directly to landlords must also be provided as an option, and could be looked into being replicated for Universal Credit. Finally, LHA must be extended to 18-21 year olds, as they are as vulnerable as any other age group.

  1. Greater Support for Those Becoming Newly Independent

Homelessness is prevalent amongst people who have become newly independent and have no support network. The two major examples of this are individuals leaving care and individuals leaving prison. For those leaving care, very often there is no support network in place. New figures were released to show that 24% of homeless people have been in some form of social care. Once old enough to leave the care system, these individuals, often already feeling isolated and abandoned, face the prospect of further marginalisation, with many sleeping rough, having never known the feeling of having a home.

Similarly, one in five individuals leaving prison have nowhere to go upon release. Time and again these are the individuals we are encountering on outreach, people trying to turn their life around but not being provided with the means to try.

We need a Labour government now, more than ever, to safeguard the transition these individuals face when becoming independent, which could be extended to include other groups such as those leaving the armed forces. Stronger support is required for these individuals, with the prospect of help to support complex needs, rehousing and the right to work.

  1. Greater support for EU and non-EEA citizens

Homelessness is rising at a frightening rate under the Conservative government, with a disproportionate number coming from EU and non-EEA citizens. Worryingly, this trend is most prevalent in rough sleeping, with well over 2,000 rough sleepers in 2014/15 from Central and Eastern Europe alone. For non-EEA citizens, the lack of entitlement to public support or funds means rough sleeping is often the only option. For EU citizens, they are entitled to a minimal amount of housing benefit, meaning their risk of homelessness is just as great.

With immigration a dividing topic at the moment, both within The Labour Party and in the electorate, the plight of EU and non-EEA homeless individuals is not seen as a priority. This attitude must change. We call for the next Labour government to show more compassion to these individuals than has been show by previous governments, and introduce more support to ensure they do not fall victim to homelessness. 

  1. Early Intervention Initiatives

The current early intervention initiatives are inadequate. With the financial restrictions that cuts to local government have placed on, in particular, Labour-run local authorities, homelessness has dropped down the list of priorities. Too often, those at risk are turned away as their case is not a priority. This needs to be reversed, with those at risk treated as a priority. There are examples of how this can be remedied. One such example occurs in The London Borough of Newham. There, they have introduced Personal Housing Plans, an agreement set out between the authority and an applicant who is at risk of losing their home within 56 days. Measures are taken to ensure the applicant does not become homeless and the crisis is averted before it has taken hold. We need a strong Labour government to initiate early intervention initiatives throughout the country, where those at risk are detected early and homelessness can be avoided.

  1. New Homelessness Legislature

At present in England, if a homeless person is not in priority need, often they receive little more than advice and are sent on their way. These people are mostly single men with no dependants, and they are the single biggest group of people at risk in England. Yet across the border, The Housing (Wales) Act 2014 is altering thinking in regards to how those not deemed priority need are treated.

This Act places the onus on local authorities to prevent individuals from becoming homeless. The timeframe for those at risk was extended from 28 to 56 days, meaning early intervention is more thorough. For those already classed as homeless, local authorities have a duty to help secure accommodation for a period of 56 days.

While imperfect, The Housing (Wales) Act 2014 clearly shows the impact legislature can have on preventing homelessness. We ask The Labour Party to ensure similar legislation is put in place nationwide following the next election, with the timeframe of those at risk of homelessness being amended to 56 days, as well as local authorities taking responsibility for preventing individuals from becoming homeless. 

  1.  Enshrine the right to a home for everyone and begin the process of housing all of the UK’s homeless population, including those with complex needs.

As shown by the achievements of The Housing (Wales) Act 2014, it is possible to legislate to ensure that every individual has the right to a home. Yet this process can be strengthened and sped up considerably. Recent statistics show that outreach workers contacted 8,096 rough sleepers in 2015/16 in London alone. While this figure is damning, the low levels of rough sleeping under the last Labour government show that a rise in homelessness can be reversed. Similarly, the level of individuals declaring themselves homeless has rapidly increased, with 112,070 in 2013 and the figure rising every year. While this is a worrying figure, it is in line with figures across Europe, where France had 103,000 individuals themselves homeless, and a huge 284,000 in Germany. This is a tragedy that can be eradicated in Britain, with the hope that Europe will follow suit.

To eradicate homelessness we need to treat housing as a basic human right. We need local authorities to receive greater power, as well as funding, to begin this process. Not only is this good social policy, it is also good fiscal policy. A recent estimate put the cost of a single homeless person at £26,000 higher than other citizens per year. Furthermore, a 2012 review of the costs of homelessness discovered that the annual public spending was up to £1 billion higher as a result of homelessness.

This crisis cannot be allowed to continue. It is costing hundreds of millions of pounds to turn a blind eye and continue the status quo, instead of tackling the tragedy head-on and changing people’s lives forever. One such method of tackling the homelessness crisis is one that has been receiving worldwide attention for its staggering results.

‘Housing First’ originated in New York in the early 1990s, initially set up to target homeless people with severe mental illnesses, morphing into an all-encompassing programme to eradicate homelessness. Its core philosophy is to provide immediate housing to homeless people with no housing ready conditions. Their access to housing is not linked with their progress in addressing issues such as drug and alcohol misuse or mental health issues, and each service user receives support for as long as they need, with access to specialists who cover the whole health and social care system. This way, homeless people are given more freedom and respect, and given the opportunity to change their lives from a position of safety and security.

This homelessness policy is not without its critics, but the results are staggering. In America, there was a 53% saving in the annual cost of each homeless individual, as well as an incredible 77% of participants staying in the houses they were given. Examples across America have shown the success of the campaign, such as in Utah, with the homeless population down from 1,932 to 178 shortly after the policy was implemented. Further to this, Housing First was trialled in nine different parts of England to assess its effectiveness, including Newcastle, Brighton and Hove and Lewisham. Two experts in the field, Joanne Bretherton and Nicholas Pleace, assessed the findings of these trials before it was inexplicably cancelled, and concluded that:

“There is a clear case for extending use of Housing First in England and the wider UK. Not only was there evidence of success within each individual Housing First services, there was also clear evidence of consistent successes across all nine services. This is a key finding of this research and worth reiterating, all nine Housing First services showed very similar levels of success across health, well-being and social integration and the eight scattered housing services all showed similar success in housing sustainment. The caveat of some of the services only having recently begun operation is also worth restating, but in all nine cases, the outcomes being achieved were largely positive.”

Whether Housing First is the final answer to addressing the homelessness crisis, or simply an excellent way to reduce the figure, it is imperative that the next Labour government assess ways of implementing it within the UK and encourages devolved governments to follow suit.

  1. Launch a substantial and sustainable programme of public and social house building.

One of the most pressing issues facing Britain today is a shortage of housing. The general consensus among housing experts is that at least 250,000 houses are needed each year to match demand, something that The Conservative Party seem unable or unwilling to provide. Without this huge drive in house building, prices skyrocket, rents increase, and many are left struggling to pay rent to private landlords, with no hope of ever owning a home or becoming financially stable. Even worse is the effect that this cycle has on homelessness. It is no stretch to state that the lack of genuinely affordable housing is the single biggest cause of homelessness in the UK.

With the introduction of Right To Buy in the 1980s, millions of council homes were sold without being replaced, leading to the shortage we have today. This has led to investors snapping up properties and renting them back to the state in the form of housing benefit at extortionate rates. In 1975, 80% of housing subsidies were on the supply side, with the construction industry booming, yet by 2000, 85% of housing subsidies were on the demand side, reducing housing costs for those on low incomes via housing benefits, paid directly to private landlords.

Under Tony Blair’s government, house building did rise to an acceptable level by 2006, with the completion of 219,070 new houses, but in recent years this has stagnated. As demand has risen, supply has fallen sharply. There are a multitude of reasons for this, ranging from developers sitting on land, a lack of funding, archaic planning permission and a lack of available space to build on. Ultimately, however, these are issues that can be addressed by a radical Labour government with a determination to build new homes.

As part of the 250,000 new houses we need each year to match demand, 100,000 of these must be genuinely affordable public homes. As John Healey MP sets out in his report, building these homes is appealing to both the public and private sector, as the creation of these public homes pays for itself over 26 years. By doing this, the government would dramatically decrease spending on housing benefit and begin to make money from these new properties. In 1950, 168,000 council houses were built. This decreased to 88,530 in 1980 and 17,710 in 1990. By 2010, there were a deplorable 1,320 new council houses built. By renewing this commitment to affordable public housing, we would be matching the commitment made by the great Nye Bevan after the war. Building 100,000 genuinely affordable houses would have an incredibly positive effect on homelessness. With more affordable houses, preventative services would be able to secure accommodation for those at risk. As Shelter state, ‘The ultimate solution to England’s housing crisis is to build more high-quality, affordable homes.’

After the suffocating housing policies of Theresa May and David Cameron, carrying on Margaret Thatcher’s legacy, we need to look further back to a time when house building on a mass scale, including a huge provision for social housing, was seen as the only viable option. We need the next Labour government to pledge to build 250,000 houses per year, with 100,000 guaranteed as affordable social houses.

Conclusion 

Fulfilling each of these pledges will require a Labour government that is determined to end homelessness in this country once and for all. There will be huge obstacles along the way. At various stages of implementation, there may be issues regarding the cost of tackling homelessness, changes in public opinion, a unified right-wing opposition or stagnation due to the difficulty of delivering such radical proposals. Yet we must persevere.

As we have shown, there will be enormous economic, let alone moral, benefits to ending homelessness. The country is suffering economically because of a refusal to help those who have fallen into hard times. More importantly, Great Britain is the sixth richest country in the world. It is a national disgrace that there are hundreds of thousands of people with nowhere to call home, and thousands sleeping on street corners and park benches.

Yet the solutions to this moral crisis are all available. We have been in regular dialogue with the UK’s major homelessness charities, as well as senior figures within the housing industry. The solutions that we have set out would be supported by most of the prominent figures that understand the crisis. The only question that remains is whether there is the political will in our party to act.

Furthermore, those who have taken the lead in the fight against homelessness are more than willing to help implement the five pledges laid out in this manifesto. Many senior figures within The Labour Party have openly supported our proposals to change how homelessness is tackled within central and local government. Many homelessness charities would also be prepared to collaborate to reveal the true extent of the crisis. Vital services, struggling following the draconian cuts they have had placed on them, would welcome increased funding and a better system of cooperation to ensure homelessness becomes a thing of the past. Most homelessness experts acknowledge that giving rough sleepers and the long term homeless a place to live is the answer to solving the crisis. Finally, housing is one of the defining crises of our time, and all experts, including the former Shadow Minister for Housing and Planning John Healey, believe that the only answer is to build 100,000 new social homes every year.

This is a crisis that we must confront, now more than ever. It is time for The Labour Party, the greatest force for social justice in the history of our country, to take the lead on homelessness, and pledge to end it once and for all.