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Tuesday, August 14, 2018

UK Government fails the test on rough sleeping

Just when we thought that the UK Government was taking homelessness and rough sleeping seriously with the announcement of a £100 million strategy to "help people turn their lives around", including support for mental health and addictions, along comes reality to burst our bubble.

The Times reports that housing secretary, James Brokenshire has admitted that none of this is new money. Apparently, half the cash had already been committed to rough sleeping and the other half was “reprioritised” from existing budgets in his department. So that means no budget consequential for the Welsh Government.

Of course this initiative had always been window-dressing, with the rather less than ambitious target of ending rough sleeping within a decade being unattainable whilst the UK Government continue to treat the issue as a standalone problems.

One of the biggest causes of the increase in homelessness has been the Government's welfare reforms. Until they understand that and make the necessary changes then more and more people will find themselves being evicted from their homes. Instead the housing minister is in denial.

And of course, although the changes that have been announced are welcome, the Government still needs to tackle the chronic lack of genuinely affordable homes, the deep instability of renting, as well as the problems with housing benefit that are leaving so many without a home.

I would also say that throwing money at the problem is not always the solution, even if it were new money. The Housing First approach being pioneered in places around the UK, including Scotland seems to be a good way forward. This places a homeless person in a home first and then adds the support, including help with drug and alcohol abuse, mental health and how to manage a tenancy.

There was no sign that the UK Government had embraced the Housing First approach yesterday, nor that they were prepared to put in place the sort of resources and joined-up government needed to make it work.
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