Softly, Softly, into Slums: New Law permits Councils to turn Homeless away

New Laws permit Councils to turn Homeless away

A Hat-tip, and Many Thanks to Jim Grundy, Hucknall

Softly, softly, this government treads. Distractions in the News make it possible for them to introduce policies, almost imperceptibly. In the beginning, nobody believed that David Cameron’s government would dare to break up and privatise the NHS. After all, he promised the NHS was safe in his hands. Education, through academisation, and Tuition fees follows  despite pledges and apologies from Nick Clegg.

With very little coverage in mainstream media, (see PollyToynbee’s article)
(12), the Government has introduced powers for local housing authorities to discharge their duty towards homeless households by placing them in the private rented sector. (Inside Housing)  1, and 2

The reforms, ..under the Localism Act, mean homeless people no longer have the right to refuse accommodation in the private rented sector offered to them by councils. Previously councils had a duty to find accommodation even if the household refused the property offered.

Housing minister Mark Prisk said the change would reduce the ‘extra expense of long-term, temporary accommodation’.

The Chartered Institute of Housing warned there could be ‘a cycle of revolving homelessness’ if the changes do not work properly. Gavin Smart, director of policy and practice, said the CIH had concerns about ensuring the quality of homes and questioned how tenants on low incomes would be able to secure a deposit.

Similarly, umbrella body Homeless Link said it was ‘extremely concerned’ about the impact on vulnerable families without an increase in social and private housing supply. Inside Housing 1, 2,

( Draft Policy, Tunbridge Wells, (3)

This new law removes the duty of care from the local authority, and offers an optional solution to cash-strapped councils.

Councillor Jim Grundy, Hucknall expresses concern.

“Some housing professionals – want to force people into the private rented sector and for no better reason than it helps them manage their workload; when people become dehumanised, becoming an administrative problem, not vulnerable at the hands of unscrupulous landlords.

It’s an opportunity for some councils, many struggling with increased demand but with reduced resources to cope – and with very understaffed enforcement teams to ensure that standards within the PRS are adequate – to turn a nelsonian eye to the problems faced by their residents.

I have met over the years officers who have long become desensitised to local people’s problems, as some health professionals have been known to become. This new power – which is not mandatory – could allow caseloads to be managed far more efficiently but could, in the very worst circumstances, lead to tragedies such as this.

Of course, the irony is the biggest reason for the increase in homeless applications is the termination of tenancies in the private rented sector. Putting ever increasing numbers of people into the private sector could, ironically, come back to cause further problems to housing authorities who would have to deal with the same people more often. It can only trap people into a cycle of poverty where they will never be able to afford the rents being charged without a top-up from benefits – and then they’re capping benefits!”

In April 2013, the Housing Benefit Cap will be introduced, and inevitably, the numbers of homeless people will increase ( Shelter 4. ), as people cannot afford the exorbitant rents. Rejected by local authorities, desperate, the options will be to live in the open,in uninhabitable (slum) properties or in outbuildings, and tragedies such as this man’s lonely death in a shed (5) could become commonplace. This is an ;extreme case but this is what can happen when the practically unregulated private landlords are left to their own devices.

Working families are becoming increasingly dependent on state benefits to avoid eviction due to a soaring housing market, a report has said.

A failure to build enough new homes in recent years has pushed rents and house prices up, and led to an 86% increase in housing benefit claims since 2009 by those in employment, according to the National Housing Federation (NHF) report. Homeless Bound  (6)

The study revealed 10,000 more working families now need housing benefit every month to help pay their rent, with 417,830 more workers claiming it over the past three years.

(Sky News, Click image for video clip) 7.

The majority of claimants of Housing Benefit are ordinary working people, while those who actually benefit are private landlords with assets in property, who may not work at all. The cost to the nation of Housing Benefit would be far better spent on building council homes for those who need them.

We are seeing ordinary families trapped because of the sales of Council Housing, and unregulated rents. Already, in Shropshire (8), thousands are struggling to find homes. ;The shortage of homes extends from London to the Wirral (9) this is a national crisis. What will happen to families turned away by local councils under this new law?

There is plenty of evidence that the government are unaware of the scale of the crisis, and the consequences of their policies. In their privileged lives, they have rarely rubbed shoulders with ordinary people, and so have little understanding of our lives.. To people like the Chancellor, George Osborne, high-priced housing means high profits as he recently pocketed nearly half a million from a second home (10). Nick Clegg, (Lib Dem) has no idea, as his proposal is to build homes in expensive, leafy towns – which no one can afford! (11)

This is a crisis facing us, and there will much deprivation, death and disease. Motivated by profit, the Coalition has no answers. The Labour Party must lead the People’s Recovery from the damage inflicted by Thatcher and subsequent neo-liberalist governments.

( Articles from Think Left)

Think Left: Homes and Communities for Everyone

Think Left, This isn’t Dickens, It’s Today: Winter’s Cold, Homeless and Hungry

  1. Inside Housing Law Change Poses Threat 
  2. Inside Housing: Homeless Forced into Private Rented Sector
  3. Tunbridge Wells Housing
  4. Shelter: 2013 Changes to Housing Benefit 
  5. This is Staffordshire: Man died living in shed.
  6. National Homeless Federation: Homeless Bound
  7. Sky News , with video clip: Workers need Benefits to avoid eviction
  8. Shropshire Star: Thousands struggle to find homes in Shropshire. 
  9. 24Dash: Homelessness soars from Wirral to London 
  10. Daily Mirror George Osborne makes £450,000 profit
  11. Guardian: New Homes Pledge, Nick Clegg 
  12. Guardian, Polly Toynbee 2013 Boom for Slum Landlords 
  13. Homelessness Kills study – Executive Summary
  14. Shelter: The causes of Homelessness

12 thoughts on “Softly, Softly, into Slums: New Law permits Councils to turn Homeless away

  1. A young homeless woman was killed in Exeter, when a tree fell onto the tent in which she was sleeping, out in the appalling weather. This is the blog written by Labour MP Ben Bradshaw. (Devon County Council is Conservative-run, Exeter City Council is Labour controlled.)

    Amid all the media coverage about the flooding we shouldn’t forget a young woman was tragically killed by a falling tree in Exeter during Saturday’s storms. Details are still emerging, but it seems the 21 year old was sheltering in a tent with some other homeless people on Western Way, close to the city centre. Those who survived are still being treated for their injuries. Until we know more about the dead woman’s circumstances and how she came to be sleeping in a tent in such atrocious conditions we need to be careful about drawing conclusions. But here are some facts about homelessness in Exeter and the impact that recent changes in Government policy have had on it.

    Last year the Government cut the amount of money it gave Devon County Council to prevent and combat homelessness by 12%. More importantly, the Government removed what is called the “ring fence”, meaning that the remaining reduced funding no longer had to be spent tackling homelessness, but the county council could spend the money as it wished. Conservative run Devon decided to cut funding by a whopping 44%. Spending of £6.2 million in 2010/11 was reduced to £3.5 million in 2011/12. In Exeter alone we lost 204 so called “supported bed” spaces. These are places where homeless people find refuge and the support they need to get themselves together and move on to permanent more independent accommodation. The cuts affected around 20 organisations in Exeter including the YMCA, Gabriel House, the Bridge Project and Mortimer House. At the time, Exeter City Council said: “We have significant concerns about the likely impacts which the changes to the County Council’s funding for housing related support will have on vulnerable people in the city. These concerns have already been expressed directly to Devon County Council; the Adult Safeguarding Board; senior DCLG officials and to Grant Shapps the Housing Minister.”

  2. Pingback: Arguments that every Liberal Democrat would do well to hear | Think Left

  3. Pingback: Softly, Softly, into Slums: New Law permits Councils to turn Homeless away « harry seeing red

  4. Pingback: Saturday Summary | a Path Through the Valley

  5. Pingback: Housing Benefit Changes: Crisis and Effects | Second Council House of Virgo

  6. Pingback: The Bedroom Tax: The Unkindest Cut of All? | Think Left

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