Labour declares “moral mission” to end rough sleeping

Elliot Chappell

Labour has declared a “moral mission” to end rough sleeping – and accused the Conservatives of being “directly responsible” for people dying on the streets.

The party has announced a plan that it says would save lives this Christmas and represent the biggest package to help homeless people in 20 years.

The measures outlined will enable Labour to fulfil its manifesto pledge to end rough sleeping within five years, the party claims. The plan includes:

  • £600m for a modern hostels fund to ensure good quality homelessness accommodation with 5,000 extra bed spaces;
  • £200m ‘hostels transformation fund’ to turn existing hostels into places where homeless people can turn their lives around;
  • £100m a year for a new scheme for emergency cold weather shelter and support, starting this winter;
  • 4,000 additional ‘housing first’ homes to get rough sleepers into permanent housing;
  • 4,000 new permanent ‘move-on’ homes, ring-fenced for rough sleepers coming out of hostel accommodation.

Commenting on the proposals, Jeremy Corbyn said: “One person sleeping rough is one too many. No one wants to live in a society where thousands of homeless people are left out in the cold on the streets. Labour will save lives this winter and end rough sleeping within five years. That’s real change.”

The policies announced would be backed up by an additional £1bn a year earmarked for local councils to pay for staffing and support, and to re-link local housing allowance with local rents.

Addressing the issue of rough sleeping, which has more than doubled in the UK since 2010, Labour’s John Healey said: “Rising homelessness shames us all in a country as well-off as ours.

“It shames the Conservative Party most of all because it is Conservative decisions to slash funding for hostels, housing benefit, homelessness services and new homes that are directly responsible for this increase in people living and dying on our streets.

“With Labour, this will change. We need a new moral mission to save lives this winter and end rough sleeping within five years.”

The government has removed £1bn from local homelessness services since 2010, resulting in 9,000 fewer hostel beds. The Tories have also cut funding for social housing and the number of government-funded homes for rent has fallen by 90%, Labour says.

The number of people dying homeless has risen by 50% in the last five years, with 726 deaths across England and Wales last year, according to the Office for National Statistics.

According to the housing charity Shelter, the number of children that will be homeless and in temporary accommodation this Christmas will be 135,000 – the highest number for 12 years.

Last year, local authorities spent more than £1bn on the growing cost of housing homeless families in temporary accommodation in England alone, up 71% from 2012-13.

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