Britain could put an end to homelessness within 10 years if the Government adopts and implements specific policies, according to the homeless charity Crisis. They also claim the policies could save the public purse billions of pounds. The charity estimates that there are currently 236,000 homeless people across England, Wales and Scotland, including those living in unsuitable temporary accommodation. It says this figure could double in the next 25 years. Fellow campaigning charity Shelter recently reported that more than 100,000 households in England had been on council waiting lists for housing for more than a decade. In launching the report, the chief executive of Crisis, Jon Sparkes said: “We must not become a society that simply accepts homelessness as a sad fact of life… it doesn’t have to be this way.” The charity which is focussed on ending homelessness in Great Britain was set up 50 years ago.
In their report Everybody In: How To End Homelessness In Great Britain, Crisis sets out a comprehensive plan to make homelessness a thing of the past. It claims that the recommended policies carry a large initial cost of £19.3bn between 2018 and 2041, but says this is more than compensated for by much bigger long-term savings of £53.9bn based on figures from accountants PricewaterhouseCoopers.
The findings include the following proposals:
- 100,500 social homes to be built annually for the next 15 years to meet the needs of the homeless and those on low incomes (91,000 in England, 5,000 in Scotland and 4,000 in Wales);
- A national roll-out of Housing First, which aims to provide more than 18,000 homeless people with homes and a package of specialised support;
- Better rights for private renters and a reform to housing benefit, to protect people once they have been housed;
- Hospitals, prisons, the care system, and other parts of the state to be legally required to help find homes for those leaving their care; and
- Job Centres to have homelessness specialists
“For the first time ever, we have a comprehensive plan that shows exactly how we can address the root causes of homelessness and make it a thing of the past,” said Mr Sparkes. “Other parts of the world are taking huge strides towards ending it, and Britain can too.” The report is based on work undertaken with the Chartered Institute of Housing, Heriot-Watt University, the National Housing Federation and PwC. The savings are expected to come from reductions in spending on councils’ homelessness services, temporary accommodation, welfare benefits, the NHS and the criminal justice system.
Local government has joined Crisis and Shelter in calling for funding for new homes. “A genuine renaissance in council house building would increase housing supply, boost home ownership and reduce homelessness” said Martin Tett, housing spokesman for the Local Government Association. Responding to the Crisis report, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said it was committed to tackling homelessness and rough sleeping. “We are investing more than £1.2bn to tackle all forms of homelessness,” said a spokesman. The spokesman highlighted last week’s announcement of £30m for councils “to help boost support available to people living on the streets”. “We are also investing £9bn to build more affordable homes and are piloting the Housing First approach in three major regions to get people off the streets and into stable accommodation.”