Five election manifestos: what do they say about homelessness?

Tuesday, 21 April 2015 - 12:56pm

Now that we’ve seen manifestos from all the main political parties, we review what each promises to do about homelessness and the issues that affect it.

Photograph: Adam Wyles

You’ve probably picked up by now that a general election is about to happen. You may even have seen housing enjoy its few minutes of fame when the Conservatives announced their plans to extend right-to-buy to housing associations – and the mixed response that followed.

Of course the trigger for those headlines was publication of the election manifestos by the five political parties standing across Great Britain - Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats, Greens and UKIP.

I’ve read them all (so you don’t have to), and I’ve tracked down anything that might have an impact on homelessness. I’ve tried to get a sense of how each party says it will approach and prioritise homelessness. And I’ve reviewed how each party’s policy commitments relate to four of the broad areas that you helped us identify for our own manifesto, Let’s make the difference: A manifesto to end homelessness, which we presented to MPs in January.

A big caveat though…

I’ve been reading election manifestos for thirty years, and it is never clear just how much stock one should set by the promises they make. This is especially so in the current era of hung parliaments, coalition agreements and minority governments.

But in lieu of anything else to work with, they do offer us the most comprehensive glimpse of each party’s proposed programme for the next five years.

Encouragingly, all five party manifestos do at least mention homelessness.

You’ll find my full analysis at the end of this article. To whet your appetite, here are some key lines from each party, in order of publication date.

Happy reading and (please) don’t forget to vote!


“Fewer affordable homes are being built, homelessness is rising, and millions face insecurity and poor standards in the private rented sector.” (page 45)

“Homelessness is the ultimate symbol of the housing crisis. Labour reduced homelessness by 70 per cent when we were last in office, but all forms of homelessness are back on the rise, with rough sleeping having increased by 55 per cent. We are committed to reversing this trend by tackling the causes of homelessness and rough sleeping.” (page 46)


“(We will) Provide more rights for homeless people, giving local authorities the same duties with regard to single people and childless couples as to families, and ending the practice of declaring people "intentionally homeless. Aim to end rough sleeping completely and give public authorities a duty to prevent it.” (page 43)


“We have also pioneered the use of social impact bonds and payment-by-results, and we will look to scale these up in the future, focusing on youth unemployment, mental health and homelessness.” (page 46)

Liberal Democrats

“[We will] Conduct a full review of the help single people get under homelessness legislation.” (page100)


“Circumstances can conspire against any one of us to leave us unemployed, seriously ill and unable to work, perhaps even facing bankruptcy and homelessness. UKIP is fully committed to maintaining a strong and supportive safety net for those who fall on hard times, whether through any fault of their own or not.” (page 22)

“The housing shortage is leading to higher rents, less stable tenancies, and rising homelessness. This is completely unsustainable.”

“There are no clear national statistics to tell us how many people are homeless in the UK. To give an indication of the scale of the problem, the Autumn 2014 total of rough sleeping counts and estimates in England was 2,744, according to the government. This was an increase of 14 per cent on 2013 figures. Meanwhile, 112,070 people declared themselves homeless in England in 2013/4.

“The scale of homelessness in 2015 is morally reprehensible and UKIP will seek to eliminate this national scandal.

Tackling homelessness starts with knowing who and where homeless people are, so they can be offered housing and other life opportunities. We will establish a National Homeless Register to make it easier for those of no fixed abode to claim welfare entitlements; get access to medical and dental services; and enable support services to identify those at risk of physical, psychological and sexual abuse.” (page 34)

Five election manifestos: what do they say about homelessness?

In the run up to the 2015 General Election, we review what the five UK-wide political parties promise to do about homelessness and the issues that affect it.


Download Let's make the difference: a manifesto to end homelessness

This manifesto, based on the views of people who have experienced homelessness in England and those who support them, sets out priority actions the new government can take to make the greatest difference to homelessness.