Housing Secretary James Brokenshire has said he will not reverse cuts to housing benefit as he admitted he is not actually committing new money to tackle homelessness.
The government has announced a £100 million fund to end rough sleeping by 2027. Brokenshire said on Monday morning homelessness was “unacceptable” in modern society.
But quizzed on the plan, he admitted half the money had already been committed to rough sleeping and the other half was had been found by redirecting existing budgets in his department.
“There are significant sums of money being focused and targeted,” he told BBC Radio 4′s Today programme.
“Half of that has already been committed to homelessness and rough sleeping. The other remaining half of this is money that’s new to rough sleeping and homelessness, reflecting and recognising the priorities and importance of taxes.”
According to government figures, the number of people sleeping rough in England rose from 1,768 in 2010 to 4,751 in 2017.
Asked if the government would drop plans to cut housing benefit for people in the social rented sector in order to tackle the underlying causes of homelessness, Brokenshire said: “No, I’m not saying that this morning.”
John Healey MP, Labour’s Shadow Housing Secretary, said the admission showed the government’s plan had “unravelled just hours after it was announced”.
“Rough sleeping has more than doubled since 2010 thanks to decisions made by Tory Ministers, but this feeble plan lacks any urgency,” he said.
“The next Labour Government will end rough sleeping within our first term in office, making 8,000 homes available for people with a history of rough sleeping.”
Shelter chief executive Polly Neate said the government’s strategy was “a step forward and not a total fix for homelessness”.
“We still need to tackle the chronic lack of genuinely affordable homes, deep instability of renting, and problems with housing benefit that are leaving so many without a home.”
Lord Porter, the chairman of the Local Government Association Chairman, said the strategy was “a positive first step” but ministers needed to “go much further, much faster”.
Rough sleeping is only the tip of the iceberg - right now, councils are currently housing over 79,000 homeless families and 123,000 children in temporary housing.
“Councils want to end all homelessness by preventing it from happening in the first place. This means allowing councils to build more social homes, reviewing welfare reforms and ensuring councils have the certainty, resources and tools they need to bring together services around people at risk of becoming homeless.”