More than two thirds (67%) of senior council figures say they do not have sufficient funding to fulfil their new duties under the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017, a new survey has found.
The New Local Government Network’s quarterly Leadership Index found this figure soared to 86% amongst respondents from London boroughs and metropolitan authorities.
A year after the act came into force on 1 April 2018, just under a fifth (19%) said their share of the £72.7m provided by government was enough to meet the new statutory duty to prevent homelessness.
The act places a new duty on local authorities to prevent homelessness of all families and single people, regardless of priority need, who are threatened with homelessness and eligible for assistance. But the NLGN’s survey, completed by 188 council chief executives, leaders and mayors from all UK regions, reveals the cash is not enough, given the soaring demand.
One chief executive described the act as “a very positive looking sticking plaster”, while the Conservative leader of a district council decried that ”government funding is only for a set period of time, three years from 2017, with no guarantees beyond this period”.
Last month, an LGA survey of councils that found that homelessness appears to have worsened since the introduction of the homelessness reduction act. Eight out of 10 councils reported a surge in homelessness presentations since the act came into force, and six in 10 said they had increased the number of people being housed in temporary or emergency accommodation.
NLGN director Adam Lent said the government’s aspiration to shift towards prevention is “admirable” but without “sustained, long-term funding of local government” it will make that goal “probably impossible” to achieve.
“There is an urgent need for government to review current funding for homelessness, particularly in the long-term, and ensure its policy aims marry with the resources available to local authorities across the UK”, he said.
The NLGN survey also highlighted the impact of universal credit on the problem, with 65% of respondents saying they “agree” or “strongly disagree” that universal credit has led to a rise in homelessness in their council’s area, rising to 78% in London and metropolitan borough councils.
James Prestwich, head of policy at the National Housing Federation, said the act was “a step in the right direction”, but that its members are concerned about the impact of universal credit on rent arrears. “Combining any number of benefits into one makes perfect sense, but are calling for an end to the five week wait and to an end to the benefit freeze,” he explained.