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By Ryan Maynes, LCEH – Head of Policy

Chancellor George Osborne has announced his 2016 budget and pledged millions to help rough sleepers, yet it is not enough, and fails to address the prevention of and solution to homelessness. 

Yesterday’s Budget took on the familiar pattern of George Osborne budgets, full of rhetoric and false promises, but ultimately failing to address key issues. And in some cases, actively neglecting them.

Yet when news broke on Tuesday in the Evening Standard that the Chancellor was intending to address the issue of rough sleeping, many were cautiously optimistic that real change could be afoot. This optimism was soon shattered, however, when the reality of his plans were announced.

George Osborne

Osborne’s announcement on rough sleeping was as follows:

“And because under this government we’re not prepared to let people be left behind, I am also announcing a major new package of support worth over £115 million to support those who are homeless and reduce rough sleeping.”

This may sound like great news, but when broken down, it amounts to little more than a populist short-term policy announced by an aspiring Conservative Party leader. The money, while desperately needed, will do little to address the causes of homelessness. As Paul Noblet, Head of Public Affairs at Centrepoint put it, “George Osborne’s proposals will offer only temporary relief, when a long-term financial commitment to helping the most vulnerable young people in our society is sorely needed.”

Campbell Robb, Chief Executive of Shelter, went further, stating, “To eradicate homelessness, the Chancellor can’t simply deal with the symptoms and ignore the root causes. Every day at Shelter we see that homelessness is principally caused by decades of failure to build genuinely affordable homes and short-sighted welfare cuts. If he is really serious about fixing things, he needs to take major action on building homes that ordinary people can actually afford to rent or buy.”

Let us not forget that this Conservative government is directly responsible for the sharp rise in homelessness. Homelessness is up 30% in the last year alone, coinciding with drastic cuts to welfare and public services, as well as a refusal to invest in genuinely affordable housing. With no source of income, no support network and no homes, the Conservatives knew exactly what the outcome would be.

To give an example of the impact Tory cuts and a lack of a housing plan are having, take Bristol as an example. In 2010, just eight people slept rough. Today there are 97 and rising. And Bristol is not a one off. This is the case in every major city in the country. As John Healey stated in his excellent article yesterday, “It is these wider housing policy failures and the lack of a long-term housing plan for the country that are driving the upward spiral of homelessness.”

Rough sleeping in this country has reached a tipping point. Quick fixes like yesterday’s announcement are not the solution. Tomorrow night in London, and from April in every major city in the UK, we will be going out weekly to provide food and clothing to those forced to sleep on the streets. This is not the solution, but it may help ease the suffering of those forced to sleep outside. We need all the help we can get.

If you want to get involved anywhere in the country, or would like to contact us to discuss ideas about ending homelessness, please email us: Labour4homes@hotmail.com.

Let’s end homelessness together.