24 October 2016 2:48 pm | By Carl Brown courtesy : Inside Housing Journal)
The government will support the Homelessness Reduction Bill, the communities secretary has announced.
Sajid Javid, in parliament today, confirmed ministers will back the bill, which would impose duties on councils to prevent homelessness. Ministers had previously said they would consider options, including legislation, to prevent homelessness but until today had stopped short of supporting the bill.
Mr Javid said: “No one should have to sleep rough on the streets. We want to build a country that works for everyone, not just the privileged few. That’s why we are determined to do all we can to help those who lose their homes and provide them with the support they need to get their lives back on track.”
The bill, tabled by Conservative backbench MP Bob Blackman, has been supported by homelessness charities. It is made up of 12 measures (see below).
A new version of the bill was published last week following negotiations with bodies including the Local Government Association.
The original bill included a new duty on councils to provide emergency temporary accommodation for 56 days to people with a local connection but who are not in priority need and who have nowhere safe to stay.
Councils have said that such a duty would place too much pressure on local authorities, which are already struggling to keep up with spiralling homelessness demand. This duty has now been removed from the bill, on the basis that it would be too costly.
Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, said: “In backing Bob Blackman’s Homelessness Reduction Bill, the government has shown its continued determination to tackle homelessness. I am also grateful for the personal tenacity and commitment shown by Department for Communities and Local Government ministers in helping get to this important milestone.
The bill is due to receive its second reading in the House of Commons on Friday. It still needs the support of 100 MPs to protect the bill from risk of being ‘talked out’.
Mr Sparkes said: “While we warmly welcome today’s announcement, there remains a real risk that unless MPs offer their support at the bill’s second reading on Friday, this historic opportunity could easily be lost.”
AT-A-GLANCE: THE HOMELESSNESS REDUCTION BILL
The bill is made up of 12 measures:
1. A change to the meaning of “homeless” and “threatened with homelessness”. Each household that has received an eviction notice is to be treated as homeless from the date on which the notice expires, and the period at which a person is threatened with homelessness is changed from 28 to 56 days.
2. All homeless people have access to free advice and information.
3. Local authorities are required to carry out an assessment of what led to each applicant’s homelessness, and set out steps to remedy this in an agreed, written plan.
4. Local authorities are required to help to secure accommodation for all eligible households who are threatened with homelessness, and at an earlier stage.
5. Local authorities are required to provide those who find themselves homeless with support for a further period of 56 days to help to secure accommodation.
6. Local authorities are able to take action to help to secure accommodation under the new duties to help homeless households.
7. Households in priority need who refuse to co-operate with prevention and/or relief activity will be offered a minimum of a six month private rented sector tenancy. They will not progress to the main homelessness duty. Households not in priority need who refuse to co-operate would be provided with advice and information only.
8. All young people leaving care will be deemed to have a local connection in the area of the local authority that is responsible for providing them with leaving care services under the Children Act 1989.
9. Applications are provided with the right to request a review in relation to the prevention and relief duties.
10. The Bill introduces a duty on specified local agencies to refer those either homeless or at risk of being homeless to local authority housing teams
11. The Secretary of State has a power to produce a statutory Code of Practice to raise the standards of homelessness support services across the country.
12. A local housing authority must satisfy itself that specific requirements are in place where it secures accommodation for vulnerable households in the private rented sector.