Headlines: December 14th, 2004

Local authorities and the voluntary sector are to get an extra 60 million pounds to reduce the number of homeless people. The announcement has been made as the Government faces criticism over the increase in the number of homeless families living in temporary accommodation.Figures show that the number of homeless people is at a record 100,810, which represents a 123 per cent rise since the Government came to power in 1997. Shelter called on the Government to make a strong commitment to a coherent, effective strategy for tackling the problem and said this should be published as part of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister’s forthcoming Five Year Plan.

The money for councils and voluntary agencies is part of a 150 million pound funding package announced by the Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott. An extra 90 million pounds will be targeted at improving the condition of hostel accommodation and the services they provide to help rough sleepers make a permanent move away from the streets.

The 60 million for local authorities and voluntary sector agencies over 2005- 06 is for the delivery of front line services and to take forward initiatives to cut homelessness, including drug rehabilitation treatment, mediation to resolve family and relationship problems and support for women facing domestic violence.

Latest statistics for the period July to September show that that these initiatives are having an effect with the number of new homeless cases falling by 11 per cent during 2004 compared with the same period last year. But the ODPM said the Government was committed to reducing the rising number of homeless households in temporary accommodation. It said it would continue to tackle homelessness by increasing the supply of social housing, where it was most needed.

John Prescott said it was clear that most homeless people were not literally homeless or sleeping rough, but were in temporary accommodation and that more than 80 per cent of them were living in good quality housing. Their tenancies, though, were not secure and they might not feel they had any stake in the accommodation or the community because of its temporary nature.

He added, “We are determined to take action to reduce the number of households in temporary accommodation. The 150 million pound funding package will help by preventing homelessness in the first place. This is backed up with sustained investment to improve the supply of social homes.”