Lots of people were recently in touch with me about the Homelessness Reduction Bill, a Private Member’s Bill which seeks to increase local support for homeless people and those threatened by homelessness.
I was in the Chamber for the whole of the Homelessness Reduction Bill’s Second Reading, as the Opposition Whip for the day. Many of my Labour colleagues were also present and I was glad to see that the Bill received cross-party support. This meant that the Bill was voted through unanimously and is now able to progress to Committee stage, meaning it is one step closer to becoming law.
The rising scale of homelessness is shocking: while the number of people sleeping rough fell by 75% during the last Labour Government, it has doubled since 2010 and has risen by 30% in the last year alone.
This rise is no coincidence and can be traced directly to decisions taken by the current Government. Cutting housing benefit support, cutting funding for homelessness support services and turning a blind eye to the severe lack of affordable homes across the country have all contributed to this staggering rise. So while it is great that the Homelessness Reduction Bill is receiving Government support, we will need to see a big changes from Government before significant reductions in homelessness can be seen across the UK.
The Homelessness Reduction Bill must not be used as an excuse to devolve responsibility to local councils without also being backed by proper funding – and this was a concern raised throughout the debate by Labour MPs. It is important that councils are not blamed for the Government’s abject failure on homelessness. During the debate, Marcus Jones, Under Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, announced that the Government will provide funding for councils to allow the Bill to be implemented. This is a good start, but we need to see this Government finally taking some action on the root causes of rising homelessness. That means more genuinely affordable homes, more social housing and more support for homeless people.
Thanks to everyone who got in touch with me about this important Bill and particularly to the lovely people I met during the Homelessness Reduction lobby to Parliament. It is great to see so many people in Lewisham Deptford who are passionate about working towards an end to homelessness.
Read the full transcript of the debate here.
Read a briefing on the Homelessness Reduction Bill from Crisis here.
Read more of my thoughts on homelessness here.