Councils spend more time telling off vulnerable than helping, MPs reveal
by Lamiat Sabin
homeless people are being systematically mistreated and fobbed off with “meaningless” advice by council-run support services that are supposed to help them, MPs said yesterday.
The communities and local government select committee found that authorities are increasingly blaming homeless people for their predicament while not providing relevant help, in some cases merely offering lists of unaffordable accommodation.
Funding cuts have hindered councils’ ability to provide “meaningful support,” the committee added.
And MPs called for the government to respond by building more social housing to help rough-sleepers and the “hidden homeless” — those in temporary accommodation or sleeping on floors and sofas.
Committee chairman Clive Betts said: “The reality is that more and more people find themselves on the streets, in 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 frontline support services along the way.”
Mr Betts said homeless people “are too often badly treated, being made to feel like they are at fault, and offered ineffectual and meaningless advice” by councils which have a “big part” to play in long-term solutions.
Council-run homelessness services must be “sympathetic and sensitive,” the report says. Action plans are also needed to help those with mental health problems, who are fleeing domestic violence or are homeless because of a relationship breakdown.
Successive governments have “grossly underestimated” the scale of homelessness and failed to sufficiently fund the resources as a result, youth homelessness charity Centrepoint said.
Centrepoint policy director Balbir Chatrik said: “Thousands of young people will continue facing dangerous situations at home and on the streets unless the government heeds this report and takes more responsibility for all those seeking support — not just those it is legally obliged to help.”
FROM P1: St Mungo’s chief executive Howard Sinclair said the rough sleeping charity supports calls to introduce a legal duty on councils to provide emergency accommodation for homeless people.
A government spokesman said it was investing £500 million to tackle homelessness and spends around £90 billion a year on “working-age benefits to help the most vulnerable.”
He added: “The report recognises the causes of homelessness are varied and complex, so we are considering how to improve services, including around mental health and addiction support.”
Local Government Association senior vice-chairman Nick Forbes said: “Local government can succeed in reducing homelessness if given the funding and powers to bring together local housing, health, justice and employment partners, to address the gaps between household incomes and spiralling rents, and to resume their historic role as a major builder of affordable homes.”