Urgent action needed to prevent a ‘catastrophic’ rise in homelessness

Warning that soaring living costs could cause a fresh homelessness crisis.

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The cost of living crisis could have a “catastrophic” effect on homelessness if the incoming prime minister and her government do not address it with the same degree of haste as they did at the outbreak’s onset.

This is the warning issued today (September 21) by a prominent collection of housing, homelessness, health, and political specialists.

The Kerslake Commission on Homelessness and Rough Sleeping has released a new report titled “A New Way of Working: Ending Rough Sleeping Together – Progress Report September 2022,” which evaluates the steps taken to end rough sleeping in England and considers the effects of the current economic crisis.

The Commission is an independent panel of 36 professionals from the health, housing, and homelessness sectors, including persons with lived experience, local and national government leaders, and the former head of the civil service, Lord Bob Kerslake. St. Mungo’s, a prominent charity for the homeless, provides the secretariat service.

In its most recent report, the Commission grades the status of its initial September 2013 recommendations as green, amber, or red, and provides a revised set of recommendations reflecting the current cost of living situation.

The Commission recommends:

  • Reintroducing a temporary ban on evictions, as seen during the pandemic, to ensure that no one is made homeless as a result of the cost of living crisis – mirroring what was announced in Scotland earlier this month.
  • Increasing the benefit cap and bringing benefits in line with inflation immediately – not in April 2023 as planned.
  • Raising local housing allowances so that so they are in line with the bottom 30% of the market.

Commission Chair Lord Kerslake said: “This Commission was formed in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis and we have seen much progress and excellent work done since as detailed in this report including some significant policy changes from the Government, and the publication of its new Rough Sleeping Strategy earlier this month.

“However, two years on from the pandemic we are facing a new crisis. The cause may be different by it the response must be equally urgent.

“The new Prime Minister has already announced plans to cap average household energy bills at £2,500 a year from next month. And this, while welcome, is not enough.

“Even with this help thousands of people are still facing the very real prospect of losing their homes because they are struggling to manage.

“The devastating effect this is having can be clearly seen in the testimonies of people who so kindly shared their personal experience with The Commission.

“We once again need to see the strong, decisive leadership from the Government we did during ‘Everyone In’, backed by resources and funding.

“But this time the focus must be two pronged. It is no longer just about getting people off the streets, it is about ensuring people who are currently at risk of homelessness don’t end up on them.

“Failure to act could see this become a homelessness as well as an economic crisis and the results could be catastrophic; with all the good achieved in reducing street homelessness since the pandemic lost, and any hope of the Government meeting its manifesto pledge to end rough sleeping by 2024 gone.”

Rebecca Sycamore, Interim Chief Executive of St Mungo’s said: “We are once again happy to support the excellent work of the Commission.

“When it was convened it was always intended to have longevity and not to produce reports that just sit on a shelf gathering dust but which provide practical and achievable recommendations to help to end rough sleeping.

“As a leading provider of frontline homelessness services we see every day the very real and very harsh reality of this financial crisis.

“And with more price increases, and the colder weather coming, it is very likely many of those currently just scraping by will no longer be able to manage, and could be at real risk of losing their homes.

“In order to prevent this from becoming a homelessness crisis action is needed now – and we fully support the new recommendations made by the Commission and urge Liz Truss and her ministers to introduce these measures as a matter of urgency to prevent more people ending up homeless this winter.”

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