Conference notes that:
- Homelessness has risen significantly over recent years, with rough sleeping doubling since 2010 and increasing by 30% in the year to autumn 2015; there are also many 'hidden homeless' people who do not appear in official statistics but live in very insecure or unsuitable accommodation.
- There are many factors that lead to homelessness including family breakdown and leaving care, and the leading cause of homelessness is now the end of short assured tenancies in the private rented sector.
- The average age of death for a street homeless person is only 47 years old.
- The needs of homeless people often extend beyond housing and include physical and mental health needs, and without a permanent address many find it hard to access services, benefits and practical opportunities to find a job, get advice or vote.
- Failing to prevent homelessness has a devastating impact on the individual and also financial cost implications on homelessness services, physical and mental health services and the criminal justice system, costing the taxpayer an annual gross cost of £1 billion as estimated by the Government.
- Many homeless and ex-homeless people are looked after in the supported housing sector, where the landlord provides care, support and supervision, but that there is uncertainty about the future of funding in this area.
Conference believes that:
- The huge shortage of housing supply, in particular affordable homes, must be addressed urgently if homelessness is to be reduced - Britain needs to increase housebuilding to 300,000 new homes each year and lift the borrowing cap on councils to enable them to build more homes.
- The Housing and Planning Act 2016 will reduce the availability of social and affordable housing at a time when there are already 1.6 million people on social housing waiting lists.
- It is essential that any government has a strategic approach to homelessness and stronger emphasis must be put on homelessness prevention, by assisting those threatened with homelessness at an earlier stage.
- The priority need system for homeless people in England means there is very little support available for single people who become homeless, and we must therefore work towards a truly universal model of support and entitlement for all homeless people, eventually abolishing the need for a priority status system.
- Recent changes to homelessness legislation in Scotland and Wales are welcome and the Government must closely monitor and learn from these changes.
- There are many third sector organisations which play a vital role in helping to tackle homelessness and should continue to be supported.
- The Coalition introduced a number of positive measures to help homeless people including 'No Second Night Out', the ending of 'beds in sheds', investing an extra £26.5 million to help councils deliver services and £40 million for the 'Stay Put' campaign to help potential care leavers stay with foster parents.
Conference calls for:
- An end to the Government's policy of forcing local authorities to sell their higher value council homes.
- Increased funding for local authorities from central government to meet their homelessness duties and a strengthening of these duties to allow earlier intervention in homelessness prevention, including extending the definition of someone threatened with homelessness from a 28 day period to 56 days.
- A requirement for local authorities to provide emergency accommodation for all people who become homeless and have nowhere safe to stay, whether single or a family, for 28 days - this will provide a window of time for support teams to work with the applicant and move them into alternative accommodation as well as act as a signpost to services including mental and physical health services.
- Adequately resourced mental health services to support those leaving care and those who become homeless.
- A review of the priority need system and the method for assessing the intentionality of homelessness.
- Involving people in designing their own solutions where possible by jointly developing a Personal Housing Plan which addresses underlying as well as immediate issues, as has been introduced in Wales.
- An end to the Government's policy of removing the entitlement to housing benefit for 18-21 year olds, currently set to be enacted in April 2017.
- A repeal of the Vagrancy Act which makes sleeping rough a criminal offence.
- A ban on the use of public space protection orders that target rough sleepers and an end to the use of so-called 'homeless spikes'.
- All local councils to have at least one provider of the Housing First model of provision for long term entrenched homeless people.
- The Government to work closely with organisations to deliver better services for homeless people and those under threat of homelessness.
- Long-term support for the supported housing sector, including maintaining funding rates at least in line with inflation.
Applicability: England, except 6 (lines 69-71) which is Federal, and 7 and 8 (Lines 72-75) which are England and Wales.