LGC’s essential daily briefing
The latest reorganisation rumour: Two-unitary model most ‘likely’ outcome for Northants
Today’s bold vision: Tony McArdle: Combined authority model should inspire shires
Today’s counterpoint to previous claims: Roy Perry: Let’s recognise that all councils are under pressure
Seventy-six years ago, one of the most radical and influential white papers was published.
The reforms and recommendations contained in Sir William Beveridge’s report helped to kickstart a major council housebuilding programme as successive governments sought to tackle the squalor holding communities back in post-war Britain.
While more than 300,000 homes were eventually being built every year come the 1960s, the country was rocked when Cathy Come Home was aired to millions of television viewers. Despite everything that had gone on in the 20 years beforehand, homelessness finally became the hot topic of conversation almost overnight.
The outrage that television play sparked did not result in an immediate reaction at a national level though. It was not until 1977 that the government finally gave councils a statutory responsibility to help homeless people.
In the decades since then homelessness statistics have peaked and troughed, but never has homelessness been eradicated.
As Bob Blackman, the Conservative backbencher whose private member’s bill has been turned into the Homelessness Reduction Act, recently said: “Homelessness is not something that has suddenly emerged.”
It might not have recently emerged, but homelessness has been on an upward curve since 2009 due in part to a combination of rising rents and welfare reforms.
From a human perspective it’s a sight that nobody wants to see on our streets. This was certainly true of Windsor & Maidenhead RBC leader Simon Dudley (Con) when he controversially aired his views about wanting to rid his streets of homelessness in the run-up to the royal wedding.
LGC has this week asked three experts in their fields to help councils come up with practical solutions to implementing the act which comes into force in two months’ time: through devising detailed plans for each individual in need of help, working with the NHS, and even landlords in the private rented sector.
In December LGC featured how Southwark LBC had implemented the act as a trailblazer authority and managed to cut homelessness in half. Of course, the London borough benefited from extra government funding, although even then the council had to stump up some of its own resources in order to deliver a full service.
Such luxuries will not be available to the vast majority of councils from April when just £73m will be shared among authorities over the next two years. Put simply, it is not enough.
As Stephanie Cryan (Lab), Southwark’s deputy leader and cabinet member for housing, put it: “I was born in 1966 when Cathy Come Home was made, and we still haven’t tackled homelessness during the whole of my lifetime. I think it’s quite naïve for anyone to assume that in two years’ time it’s going to get any better.”
While the legislation’s laudible aims might be undermined by a lack of support from central government, LGC hopes the guide we have produced today will go some way to giving councils some chance of reducing homelessness in their areas.
Those sleeping on our streets deserve that, at the very least.
By David Paine, acting news editor