This morning I wrote welcoming the news that the Chancellor was to announce £110 million for specialist accommodation to help people out of rough sleeping and homelessness. In the event he announced £115 million.
I warned, however, that previous announcements, not least in the Autumn Statement, has already seen the freezing of developments in supported housing and the potential closure of many thousands of bed spaces. This is because Mr Osborne has said that, from April 2018, the amounts someone in specialist supported housing may claim through housing benefit will be limited to that of local housing allowance (LHA). In Brighton and Hove this limit is £612.08 per month if you are over 35, and just £330.64 if you are under 35. The average monthly rent for a one bed flat or bedsit in Brighton is now approaching £1,000.
I said that I would welcome a reversal in the decision to cap housing benefit to LHA levels. I said I would praise him if he made announcements today that would ensure that specialist supported housing was to be put on a proper and sustainable financial footing so that we can see, once and for all, an end to rough sleeping in this country.
Sadly he has failed this challenge. So on homelessness, I would rate this budget as a failure. He has ignored the warnings from so many of us involved in helping people off the street and those with support needs. Homelessness will increase and this £115 million will have little impact in stemming rising levels of rough sleeping.
If, on the other hand, there is something in the small print that I have missed, please can someone point it out to me. I will gladly retract what I have said and will happily praise the Chancellor …..