Labour: Government is ‘ducking the hard truth’ on homelessness
People are dying on the streets and the Government is “ducking the hard truth” that its decisions on funding and investment are the root causes of the homelessness crisis, Labour has claimed.
Shadow housing secretary John Healey (pictured) called on cabinet minister James Brokenshire to “think again” and “save lives this winter”, adding that with the first widespread winter snow forecast this week there were still areas of this country where no extra emergency accommodation would be available.
Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government Mr Brokenshire said he had “certainly not hidden” from the challenges and responsibilities of looking at some of the complex issues that lie behind the figures.
He added: “I am determined to make that difference and actually through our rough sleeping strategy will make that difference and make rough sleeping a thing of the past.”
Speaking in the Commons during departmental questions, Mr Healey said that last year nearly 600 people died homeless, adding: “The Secretary of State was right to admit…that this is truly shocking and in a country as decent and well off as ours this shames us all.”
Mr Brokenshire said: “Well I share his understandable and rightful concerns in respect of the numbers who were shown to have died and indeed the increase in the number of rough sleepers.
“I have certainly not hidden from that in terms of the challenges, the responsibilities that we hold as a Government to look at some of the complex issues that lie behind this, but also what we can do in terms of other issues on social policy, where changes have been made to look at the evidence and ensure that we are making that difference in eradicating rough sleeping, preventing people from becoming homeless and ensuring that those who are most vulnerable are well supported.”
Mr Healey accused Mr Brokenshire of giving an answer of “sheer irrelevance”.
He said: “People are dying on the streets and the Government is ducking the hard truth that its decisions on hostel funding, on housing benefit, on social housing investment and on protections for private renters are the root causes of the homelessness crisis.
“With the first widespread winter snow forecast this week there are still areas of this country where no extra emergency accommodation will be available.
“So will the secretary of state think again, will he save lives this winter, will he make our Labour plan, the country’s national plan, with £100 million for extra emergency accommodation for every rough sleeper in every area as the temperatures are set to hit zero.”
Mr Brokenshire replied that he took rough sleeping and ensuring that lives are saved “extremely seriously”.
He said: “It’s one of my priorities, why we have the rough sleeping strategy in the way that we did, looking not just (at) accommodation which of course is important, the steps that we’ve taken through our rough sleeping initiative, the additional accommodation, the additional support workers, that are out there as a consequence.
“But it is also about issues such as health, it is about addiction, it is about issues of mental health.”
Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Dominic Lipinski / PA Wire.