THE BLOG

Queen's Speech: The Government Must Act On Manifesto Promise To End Rough Sleeping

21/06/2017 16:54
PA Wire/PA Images

This week the new Government set out its priorities in the Queen's Speech, yet unfortunately for homeless people up and down the country, it made no mention of homelessness, despite an election promise to end rough sleeping in England by 2027. While we certainly welcome the Government's proposals to build more homes and ban unfair tenant fees, if it is to fulfil its promise to homeless people, then we need serious, concerted action, and we need it soon.

Right now we have a political consensus, but we have to keep the momentum going. For the first time ever, the Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats all fought the election with manifesto promises to end rough sleeping in England. This followed a successful campaign by Crisis - in partnership with Shelter, St Mungo's, Centrepoint and Homeless Link - in which we called for just that.

Each party made clear commitments. Labour set out a plan to end rough sleeping within the next parliament, including 4,000 homes for rough sleepers, and pledged to tackle the root causes of homelessness, with safeguards to protect hostels and other supported housing from benefit cuts. The Liberal Democrats committed to ending rough sleeping through increased support for prevention and adequately funded emergency accommodation and supported housing. And the Conservatives pledged to halve rough sleeping over the course of the next parliament and to eliminate it altogether by 2027 through a new homelessness reduction taskforce.

While we are yet to hear what that taskforce will look like, it seems homelessness is starting to get the political focus it needs, and with a hung parliament, the cross-party consensus is more important than ever. The challenge now is to make sure these promises are kept.

Despite its silence on homelessness, the Queen's Speech included proposals to increase house building, which is good news so long as they're the right kind of houses at an affordable price for those on the lowest incomes. We also welcome the announcement of a Tenants Fees Bill, although this is a draft bill and unlikely to become law for quite some time. Before that happens, it will need to go through pre-legislative scrutiny, and won't be introduced as a proper bill until the next parliamentary session in two years' time.

Similarly, we are encouraged by some of the political appointments that followed the election. Sajid Javid MP will remain as Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, while Marcus Jones will be staying as minister responsible for homelessness. Both MPs have engaged with us on homelessness, and have already shown their commitment by supporting the Homelessness Reduction Act earlier this year. We hope this ambition will continue into the new parliament.

Whatever happens in the coming months and years, we stand ready to work with ministers and across all parties to help bring the scandal of rough sleeping to an end. Yet we wouldn't be where we are without the support of our campaigners, and we need them now more than ever to keep up the pressure on Government and opposition parties to fulfil their pledges, because ultimately, homeless people need action, not promises.

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