Homelessness continues to be one of the main financial strains on local government. The new funding and independent review into the issue announced today are greatly needed but will not address the whole issue. In December 2019, Shelter estimated that there were 280,000 homeless people in England and this number is rising annually. The majority of these are people in temporary accommodation, with rough sleepers being just the tip of the homelessness iceberg.
This has had a direct impact on local government and spend on homelessness prevention by councils in England has increased by 166% since 2009/10, seeing an increase of over £34million in the last financial year alone. The South East has seen the biggest rise in spend - a staggering 319% increase since 2009/2010.
This increase in spend is unsustainable and the new funding marks an important step in tackling the issue. But rough sleepers are not the only people at risk – we can’t forget those who are living in a state of continued uncertainty in temporary accommodation, the cost of which is funded by councils. If we are to move away from this dependency on temporary accommodation we need to focus on encouraging and enabling councils to build more social housing. The government made positive steps with lifting the HRA cap but this needs to be seen through by a permanent increase in the rate of social housing being built.
The government has pledged an extra £236m to tackle rough sleeping, alongside an urgent review into the issue by a former homelessness tsar. The new funding will go towards accommodation for up to 6,000 rough sleepers, and helping those at immediate risk of being on the streets. It comes after BBC research revealed rough sleeping was five times higher than the official figures suggested. Labour said the government was "in denial about the scale" of the problem. But Boris Johnson said he was "absolutely determined to end rough sleeping once and for all". The announcement comes ahead of new homelessness figures, set to be published on Thursday. On Wednesday, the BBC revealed more than 28,000 people in the UK were recorded sleeping rough in 12 months, with five times as many rough sleepers in England than the government's published statistics