Investment in the right support and a welfare system that works for the most vulnerable are just two of the things we ask for in this year’s Spending Review.
Homeless Link responds to the Spending Review
It is therefore welcome that there is protection of the Department for Communities and Local Government funding for targeted homelessness intervention along with the doubling of investment in housing and the proposed 400,000 affordable homes.
We also welcome the announcement of £600m for mental health services. This is an area of public health that has been long neglected and under-funded and is an area of support that many people who are homeless need to help them get back into stable accommodation.
However, the capping of Housing Benefit to Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rate in the social sector presents a risk to the poorest and most vulnerable. These changes do not address the underlying causes of why the Housing Benefit bill is so high, which is that there are more low income households living in the private rented sector. This is in part due to the shortage of affordable and social housing and fast rising private rents.
Homeless Link has serious concerns about the Housing Benefit cap to the LHA rate if it is going to apply to homelessness hostels and other supported accommodation. The Government will need to provide more detail and the definition of ‘social sector’ will be critical. Housing Benefit provides a major safety net and source of funding for many homelessness services and any cuts to this will have a damaging effect on homelessness services and homeless people.
We would have liked to have seen a greater commitment to increase the supply of truly affordable housing for rent and we still face a chronic shortage of this accommodation. We question how truly affordable the proposals of Starter Homes and Shared Ownership schemes will be for the poorest in our society. The additional funding for mental health needs to be for more than just crisis intervention, it should be targeted at those struggling with more than one complex problem and seeking to address longer terms needs and support prevention measures.
Rick Henderson, chief executive of Homeless Link said:
“Much of the autumn statement is to be welcomed and specifically we look forward to continuing to work with Government on the implementation of targeted interventions for homeless people.
“I would, however, urge the Chancellor to look carefully at some of the housing reforms. We welcome increased housing supply but this must include an adequate supply of rented accommodation that is actually within the means of all people. Under the current definition of ‘affordable’, these new homes will remain out of reach for those in greatest need.
“It is also important to ensure that changes are not at the expense of ensuring that those who are most vulnerable are properly and stably housed. The Chancellor must ensure that the proposed Housing Benefit caps do not leave the vulnerable at greater risk of homelessness.”
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James served as our Head of Communications until January 2016.