Peter Aldous welcomes Government efforts to address homelessness and rough sleeping but calls for speedier action and longer-term certainty in funding provision. He specifically calls on the Government to ensure local authorities are adequately funded to support the Homelessness Reduction Act, reduce the five-week wait time for first payment of universal credit and restore the local housing allowance rates to at least the 30th percentile of the local market.
We all need to do more to address homelessness. That is quite clear from this debate. To their credit, the Government have come forward with a range of initiatives and policies to address the challenge we face. In the past few weeks, the Secretary of State has announced his Department’s allocations of funding to address homelessness and rough sleeping. The feedback I am receiving from Lowestoft in my constituency is that this funding is adequate but that the way it is provided needs to be reviewed. It is not easy to plan and bring about sustained improvement if funds are only confirmed a few weeks before the start of the financial year and are then only there for one year. Longer commitments of three years should be provided to enable meaningful and lasting results to be achieved.
Some specific issues need to be addressed. First, the Homelessness Reduction Act is very welcome, but to achieve its objectives local authorities need to be adequately funded and housing associations need to be more fully involved in its delivery. Secondly, we need to look closely at the impact of universal credit on homelessness. To my mind, the five-week wait for the first payment is making the situation worse and does need to be changed. Thirdly, at the forthcoming Budget, the Government need to consider seriously restoring the local housing allowance rates to at least the 30th percentile of the local market.
Once people are off the streets, we must do all we can to get rid of the revolving door back on to the streets, and this means building more social rented homes. The affordable homes programme will achieve this, but it needs to be introduced immediately so that housing associations can get on with acquiring the land on which to build these homes. I am also mindful of the vital role played by supported housing. From 2016 to 2018, Parliament, in both Chambers and on both sides, spent a lot of time reforming the policy framework. We now need to ensure that the sector can play its full role in alleviating homelessness. I ask the Government to give careful consideration to the National Housing Federation’s campaign for £1.4 billion in the forthcoming Budget for supported housing providers.
I believe that the Government have introduced many of the policies and initiatives that are required to address the blight of homelessness, but there is a need to get on with it, and to provide greater long-term certainty in funding commitments. That will enable those who work night and day with the homeless to make a sustained and lasting difference.
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