What the election result means for our sector

Friday, 9 June 2017 - 3:42pm

While the dust is still settling on the 2017 election, and a number of things will only become clear in the coming days, we have compiled a summary of what we know so far, and the potential implications for our members.

Downing Street sign

With one seat left to declare in the election, it is clear no party has won the number necessary to gain an overall majority (326 of 650 seats in Westminster). This means we have what is known as a ‘hung Parliament’.

In order to govern, parties must command the confidence of the House of Commons – if a party does not have majority control of the House of Commons, they have a few options. They can either enter into a formal coalition with other parties to ensure they have a majority of seats, as seen with the Coalition Government 2010-15, or operate as a minority Government with other parties offering support in key votes and on other issues on a vote-by-vote basis.

The Conservatives, as the party with the largest number of seats, have announced they will be working with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to try and secure a majority. Together the parties have 328 seats. We do not yet know the full nature of the arrangement, but speculation suggests the DUP will support the Conservatives by voting for the Queen’s Speech, the first test of the feasibility of a new Government, which is scheduled for 19th June. Further support may then be offered on an issue-by-issue basis.

It is important to note that many of the issues relevant to our members, such as housing, welfare, health and criminal justice, are devolved in Northern Ireland. This means there is little in the DUP’s Westminster election manifesto on these issues, and it is unclear how their ten MPs might use any influence in Westminster to shape legislation in these policy areas that will not affect Northern Ireland.

In terms of the Conservative manifesto, there are a few things highlighted in our pre-election manifesto round-up that we will be monitoring in the coming weeks and months:

Housing and Homelessness

  • The manifesto made several commitments on homelessness. These were a) implementing the Homelessness Reduction Act, b) committing to halve rough sleeping over the course of this parliament and eliminating it by 2027, c) establishing a new Homelessness Reduction Taskforce, focused on prevention and affordable housing and d) piloting Housing First projects. We will work to ensure the experience and expertise of our members influences the implementation of these commitments on homelessness.
  • In terms of housing, the Conservatives have committed to deliver a million homes by the end of 2020 and half a million more by the end of 2022. They have also promised to give greater flexibility to housing associations to increase their housing stock.
  • The manifesto also contained proposals to improve protections for those who rent, including looking at increasing security for tenants and encouraging landlords to offer longer tenancies as standard. We know that the ending of an assured shorthold tenancy is the leading cause of homelessness and welcome initiatives to make the private rented sector more secure and accessible.

Welfare and Employment

  • While the Conservatives’ manifesto indicated that they have no plans for further radical welfare reform, we will continue to monitor the impact of the Universal Credit roll-out on people who are homeless or vulnerably housed, including our ongoing work on the future of supported housing funding.
  • The manifesto proposes incentives for employers to take on people who have found it difficult to get into employment in the past. We will work to ensure anything that is introduced reflects the specific needs of jobseekers who are experiencing homelessness.

Health and Social Care

  • In terms of health, the manifesto commits to increase NHS spending by at least £8 billion in real terms over the next five years, with a further investment of £1 billion in mental health by 2020/21.
  • Additional mental health commitments include introducing a new Mental Health Act and plans to have Police and Crime Commissioners on health and wellbeing boards, to improve the co-ordination of mental health services with the police and drug and alcohol rehabilitation services.
  • We will work to ensure that housing and homelessness services are not excluded from these discussions, nor wider initiatives to drive better integration between health, social care and other services.
  • The manifesto also sets out the Conservatives’ plans for funding social care. These include taking the value of someone’s house into consideration when means-testing for domiciliary as well as residential care, raising the level of means-testing to £100,000 and extending the option to defer paying for care to those receiving care in their homes (as well as those in residential homes).
  • We are expecting a Green Paper on social care funding in the coming months, which will also include a discussion on an absolute cap on social care costs any one individual will pay in their lifetime. We will ensure that the needs of working-age adults in receipt of social care are also considered in any future plans.

We are also waiting on news of Cabinet and ministerial appointments – we know that the previous Housing Minister Gavin Barwell lost his seat in the election, along with two previous Department of Health Ministers, David Mowat and Nicola Blackwood – and there may be further changes. Whatever the outcome, Homeless Link is committed to working with the new Government to ensure homelessness and supported housing remain high up the political agenda and that everyone has a place to call home, and the support they need to keep it.