On Monday, I asked the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Local Government, Marcus Jones MP, what assessment his Department has made of the potential effect of the decision to cap housing benefit for supported accommodation at local housing allowance rates on homelessness.
The chief executive of the National Housing Federation – the umbrella body for housing associations – has made clear that “We want to put supported housing on a secure and sustainable footing for the long-term and we are not confident that the new system will guarantee this.”
Housing benefit changes announced by the Chancellor in the Autumn Statement set a new cap on housing benefit for social tenants, equivalent to the local housing allowance rate for private rented tenants. Despite changes made by the government under pressure from Labour, the current proposals are not good enough.
The UK Government’s record on homelessness and rough sleeping shames Britain. The most recent rough sleeping figures for England reveal that the number of people sleeping on our streets has doubled to an estimated 3,569 people. The number has increased by 30% in the last year alone.
The Government Minister proudly noted how they were delaying the caps, but that still means that they will be implemented. The very caps that organisations who help people find housing every day are noting will be damaging.
The Government has the opportunity now to stop and rethink this action. I will continue to press the Government to ensure that our social security system is not punitive and instead ensures that the most vulnerable get the help they so desperately deserve.