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Labour calls for councils to be compelled to act on homelessness

Published 25/04/2016

Councils should be required to help the homeless, Labour said
Councils should be required to help the homeless, Labour said

New laws are needed to stop councils allowing people to slip into homelessness, Labour has insisted.

The party's shadow housing and planning secretary, John Healey, has backed calls by the charity Crisis to legislate to compel local authorities to offer a greater duty of care.

A review commissioned by the charity demands councils must be legally bound to give people in danger of losing their homes advice, mediate with landlords, and provide help with outstanding rent arrears.

Mr Healey criticised current rules which mean that homeless people can only get help if they meet strict criteria, including being classed as a "priority need" - a status which excludes most single people without dependent children.

This clause meant 20,000 households - one in six of those who applied for help - did not have the right to be rehoused last year.

Mr Healey said that under the last Labour government households accepted as homeless fell by 62%.

However, now homelessness is rising again, with the number of rough sleepers doubling in England since 2010, and more than 100,000 children in temporary accommodation.

Mr Healey said: "This spiralling scale of homelessness should shame us all. It is a test of our basic humanity and the clearest possible message to this government that they must now make different decisions to those they have made over the last six years.

"Ministers' failure to control housing costs and crude cuts to housing support are making the problem much worse. So the Government must now re-think the multi-billion pound cuts to housing and homelessness support which are set to bite during this Parliament.

"As this important report shows, the legal protections for homeless people in England are not good enough. Ministers must also act now to strengthen the law to help prevent homelessness as Labour has done in Wales."

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