21 October 2016
A new version of the Homelessness Reduction Bill, to be debated by MPs on Friday 28 October, has been published.
The Bill has been introduced by the backbench Conservative MP Bob Blackman. At least 100 MPs are needed on Friday to help ensure the Bill gets past the important second reading so it can continue to be scrutinised by MPs and Peers as it makes its way through Parliament and into law.
The Bill contains amendments to the 1996 Housing Act, which represent a number of significant improvements to the existing duties on councils to help those who are homeless or threatened with homelessness. The Bill maintains the existing duty on councils to secure accommodation for homeless households in ‘priority need’, including families with children and very vulnerable adults.
Proposed changes include:
• Recognising a household is ‘threatened with homelessness’ if they are at risk of losing their accommodation within 56 days, rather than within 28 days as is currently the case
• A stronger duty on councils to provide information and advice on homelessness and ensuring advice services are designed to meet the needs of people who are at particular risk of homelessness, including people with mental health problems
• A duty on councils to provide a meaningful assessment and personalised plan for everyone who is homeless or threatened with homelessness and eligible for assistance*
• A duty on councils to help prevent anyone threatened with homelessness from losing their accommodation, providing they are eligible for assistance
• A duty on councils to help secure accommodation for anyone who is already homeless, providing they are eligible for assistance
• A duty on other public authorities, such as hospitals and prisons, to refer cases of homelessness to the local housing authority
*In line with existing law, people will not usually be eligible for assistance if they are subject to immigration controls.
In order to improve the chances of the Bill becoming law, it no longer includes a duty on councils to provide interim emergency accommodation to anyone who is not in priority need.
However, the government has signalled councils should be providing somewhere safe to stay to people at imminent risk of sleeping rough as part of a £40 million homelessness prevention programme launched by the Prime Minister on Monday (17 October).
Howard Sinclair, Chief Executive of St Mungo’s, said: “The Homelessness Reduction Bill is a major step towards ensuring people get the help they need to avoid the dangers of sleeping rough. MPs must not miss this once in a generation opportunity to reduce homelessness and rough sleeping. There is cross sector and cross party support for the Bill, it now remains for the government to get behind it as these changes cannot come quickly enough.
"Our Nowhere safe to stay research has exposed the extreme dangers of sleeping rough, including violence, abuse and suicide and so we also urge the government to produce a national strategy to end rough sleeping and steps to ensure no one is turned away when they have nowhere safe to stay. The funding package recently announced by the Prime Minister is a promising start."