What does today’s Budget mean for homelessness?
29.10.2018 673 XX
What we were calling for
Ahead of the Budget, we called on the Government to focus its investment more sharply on interventions that prevent homelessness from occurring in the first place. The Westminster Government already invests £1.1bn every year in tackling homelessness. However, most of this investment is spent on helping people when they reach crisis point. Instead, investment should be targeted at policies that are proven to end homelessness, as opposed to just managing it. This includes:
- specialist help in Jobcentres to identify and support people at risk of, or experiencing homelessness; and
- support to help house people leaving a state institution who are most at risk of homelessness, such as care leavers and people leaving the asylum system
Universal Credit received a significant amount of attention in the run up to the Budget, with MPs from all political parties and lobbying organisations calling on Government to increase investment in the system. We know this is essential to ensuring that where possible homelessness is prevented, and for people already experiencing homelessness they are rapidly rehoused. At the moment however, errors and delays in the system are key barriers to resolving homelessness.
The Government have committed to a £2.7 billion package of investment which includes a run period of two weeks for Jobseekers Allowance, Employment Support Allowance, and Income Support for people transitioning onto Universal Credit. This goes some way to reducing the initial five week wait, but will not be available for new claimants. We must ensure that this extra funding for the transition to Universal Credit supports homelessness prevention and rapid response, including by ensuring homeless people do not lose out when they are migrated onto Universal Credit. This will only make it harder for people to rapidly move on from homelessness. This includes the investment of £20 million per year needed to establish a network of Homelessness and Housing Specialists across the Jobcentre Plus network, to identify and respond to the specific needs of people at risk of, or currently experiencing, homelessness. This approach has already been endorsed in the Government’s strategy to end rough sleeping by 2027.
The Government also announced that they would lower the rate at which people would have to pay back any advanced payments that they receive whilst waiting for their Universal Credit claim to kick in. Again, this is a really important step in the right direction but ultimately, we would want to see the rate set much more flexibly and as low as possible to help people who are really struggling.
Supply of housing for people experiencing homelessness
The Budget also focused sharply on the supply of affordable accommodation. Right now across England, councils are desperately struggling to find homeless people somewhere to live. This means thousands of people are ending up trapped in B&Bs and hostels or on the streets, exposed to danger every night. But today the Government lifted the Housing Revenue Account cap that controls local authority borrowing for house building. We know that local councils need all the help they can get to cope with the unprecedented numbers of homeless people needing their support. They also confirmed that the Welsh Government is taking immediate steps to lift the cap. Government, councils and housing associations must now work together to turn these commitments into delivery on the ground – there is a huge distance to travel from the 5,900 social homes provided last year to the 90,000 we need every year to help end homelessness.
We strongly welcome the commitments reiterated on investment needed in social housing that we saw in today’s Budget. This is an incredibly important piece of the puzzle to ending homelessness. Increased investment in Universal Credit is also a welcomed step forward.
But what we need now is a clear agenda embedded across all government departments to ensure that homelessness is prevented, particularly for those who are most at risk. This means investment in the welfare system, including Universal Credit and Local Housing Allowance rates. These are both issues that we’d like to see the Government’s Rough Sleeping and Homelessness Reduction Taskforce address going forward, as well an important consideration of next year’s Spending Review.
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