MPs slam how all the help ‘many’ homeless people get is a list of local letting agents

A rise in homelessness is being driven by the cost and availability of housing, a cross-party group of politicians said today.

They include estate agent Kevin Hollinrake, chairman of Hunters and MP for Thirsk and Malton.

In an unusually hard-hitting report, the MPs are calling for a renewed government-wide strategy, and criticise the way many homeless people are dealt with as unacceptable.

The Communities and Local Government Select Committee says that its inquiry showed many homeless people are treated shamefully by council staff.

Those judged not to be in priority need are often sent away without any meaningful support or guidance.

The committee is sponsoring a new Private Member’s Bill, the Homelessness Reduction Bill, to be presented next month by one of its members, Bob Blackman.

It is almost unheard of for a select committee to sponsor a Bill on the back of an inquiry, as the CLG Committee is doing.

The committee calls on the Government to monitor councils, and reinforce the statutory Code of Practice to ensure the levels of service that local authorities must provide are clear.

Another recommendation is that the Government should consider setting a statutory duty for local authorities to provide meaningful support to single homeless people with a local connection, after the inquiry found that many receive little more than a list of local letting agents.

The report says a shortage of social housing means many people rely on the private rented sector to avoid or escape homelessness, but often the financial barriers or instability of tenancies are too great.

It urges the Government to work with local authorities to deliver homes for affordable rent and says local housing benefit levels should be reviewed to more closely reflect market rents.

Clive Betts MP, Chair of the Communities and Local Government Select Committee, said: “No one should be homeless in Britain today, but the reality is that more and more people find themselves on the streets, in night shelters or going from sofa to sofa to keep a roof over their heads.

“They are often driven there by the availability and cost of housing and have been failed by front line support services along the way.

“The scale of homelessness is now such that a renewed Government strategy is a must. It needs to not only help those who are homeless but also prevent those vulnerable families and individuals who are at risk of becoming homeless from joining them.

“All departments will need to subscribe to this common approach and contribute to ending homelessness.

“Local authorities also have a big part to play. The committee recognises that they face a significant task with funding pressures and legal obligations, but vulnerable people are too often badly treated, being made to feel like they are at fault, and offered ineffectual and meaningless advice.

“We want the Government to monitor local authorities and help them achieve best practice.

“The Committee has made a number of recommendations and we plan to follow up many of these issues in a year’s time to see what progress is being made.”

The prevalence of mental health issues among homeless people, in particular rough sleepers, is also highlighted in today’s report with ministers urged to produce a detailed action plan.

Other recommendations include:

  • Housing benefit recipients should have the option of their benefit being paid directly to the landlord to reduce likelihood of arrears and increase landlord confidence.
  • Landlords should be encouraged to offer longer Assured Shorthold Tenancy agreements.

Umbrella charity body Homeless Link welcomed the report and urged the Government to act without delay.

Chief executive Rick Henderson said: “The report must not be allowed to gather dust; the clock is ticking for many people at risk of or currently experiencing homelessness.”

The biggest single cause of homelessness is the ending of an assured shorthold tenancy in the private rented sector, according to official figures.

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7 Comments

  1. Will

    The biggest single cause of homelessness is Government selling council houses, disposing of social housing and allowing unfettered immigration without providing the housing necessary for the influx of people. More nonesense of not tackling the true cause preferring to attack the private rented sector as the easy target.

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  2. Robert May

    It was interesting to hear Clive Betts MP, quote me word for word on the television this morning.   Stuff which he seemingly ignore in 2012  obviously made it’s mark.

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  3. Trevor Mealham

    We (myself and partner Tracey) have taken a friend in and let her have our spare room. The friend sadly fell on hard times a few months back and was evicted.

    Her 2 children are at her parents and she has been in touch with the council.

    The council gave her poor advice to stay put in her last home post section 21 being served which I advised against.

    Now letting agents obviously wouldnt want to touch her as she stayed to be evicted.

    She’s emotionally confused and the council have been about as much use as a chocolate teapot.

    With her family currently apart and and emotionally in a bad place, the council staff need sacking.

    One of the worst bits council staff do is to advise tenants post S21’s simply stay. The aftermath is a bigger mess than the short term fix.

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  4. htsnom79

    Theres.Just.Not.Enough.Stock.

    Councils don’t have the stock and where they do odds are that somebody perceived as ‘ more ‘ deserving on the points system will get it. Agents can’t get enough stock and what is available will inevitably go to the ‘ better ‘ tenants, can’t blame the agent or the landlord for wanting the path of perceived lesser risk/hassle. Housing associations don’t have enough stock, waiting lists as bad if not worse than the councils. It’s the tenant middle ground which is the worst, not good enough ( salary/history/credit/pets/whatever ) to be cherry picked but too good ( No dependants/decent health/not too old not too young/whatever ) to be prioritised by state. The middle is probably most people, life happens.

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  5. Woodentop

    It never seems to surprise me this story, its nothing new. Been going on year after year and all talk and no action since the 1980’s.

     

    Interestingly I note that the Welsh have the drop on England for their Housing Act requires councils to re-house with 57 days of homelessness. I’m told B&B’s are doing a roaring trade, but not really the answer.

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  6. PeeWee

    I picked up a chap wilting under the blazing sun with a sign hoping for a lift.  (Blazing sun?  Yes this year the British summer was on Tuesday) .

    Anyway, I took him the 60 odd miles up the motorway to his preferred destination and asked him his story.  It goes something like;

    Arrived home from working away to find his wife had changed the locks.

    Has to travel between housing associations and councils to see if they can help him.  He has to physically be there and with no home, now jobless and no transport he has to thumb lifts.

    Most of the councils tell him he is too normal!  He has no dependants with him on the streets sleeping rough, he isn’t an alcoholic, has no drug dependency, no mental illness and is not on the sex offender register.  Which means they are unable to help him and he goes on to the next town the next city and housing association.

    I queried that there has to be some organisation that can help and in his own words he said, “There used to be, but due to lack of funding there is next to nothing”.

    His work took him all over the world and he paid in to the system, he was like anyone else you could meet, but through his calm demeanour you could detect the anguish of bitterness and frustration of being dumped on from a great height.  He calmly said, “I’m only glad its summer and not winter because if the snow hits the ground and I haven’t found help I am wondering what I can do to find my way into a warm police cell for the night.”

    What a world we live in.

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    1. Jacqueline Emmerson

      That poor homeless guy should have gone to see a solicitor. He has matrimonial home rights which he could enforce in a court of law. The very fact that he is homeless would show a judge his need to re-enter his own home until he, or indeed the wife, can find another home.

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