I have written on several occasions about the proposed Homelessness Reduction Bill that recently was introduced to parliament by the Conservative MP, Bob Blackman.
The government has now announced that it will be supporting the Bill, albeit in a slightly amended form, that aims to reduce homelessness. The new version of the Bill was published this week (25th October) and has taken into account representations made by a number of organisations.
One matter that concerned BHT was a paragraph that would allow local authorities to treat people as “intentionally homeless” if they felt that the household deliberately or unreasonably refused to cooperate.
I am delighted that this section has been removed as it didn’t take into account people who might be distressed or who find the bureaucracy of councils confusing and intimidating.
But also excluded from the latest version is a new duty that would have required councils to accommodate in temporary or emergency accommodation for 56 days anyone, including those not in ‘priority need’ who have a local connection and nowhere safe to stay.
The government feel that this provision has been removed because it would be too costly.
Of course I am disappointed about this. When the Conservative Grant Shapps was the Housing Minister, he championed the concept of No Second Night Out that was premised on the understanding that someone who sleeps rough for more than even one night quickly becomes entrenched and it is much harder to get them in off the street.
The duty on councils to accommodate people would have had an immediate impact on the number of people ending up as rough sleepers. It would have ticked the box about prevention rather than cure, and might well have proved to be cheaper in the long run.
But on balance, I think the Homelessness Reduction Bill is good news, although a small opportunity has been missed. Congratulations must go to Bob Blackman for his leadership on this matter.