Now both Houses of Parliament have agreed on the text of the Homelessness Reduction Bill, it waits for the final stage of Royal Assent when it will become an Act of Parliament [BBC News March 20 2017]. A date for Royal Assent has yet to be set, but should take place by the end of May: http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2016-17/homelessnessreduction.html (16 April 2017).

Councils are being given time to prepare and the Government will need time to provide guidance.  However, it has been announced local authorities will have £61 million over two years to start delivering the new duties. The Government has said it will review  how the duties are working within that two years.

This was a private member’s bill introduced by Conservative MP Bob Blackman following an influential Crisis report. The Bill received government backing. It will place a new duty on local authorities in England to assist people threatened with homelessness within 56 days and to assess, prevent and relieve homelessness for all eligible applicants including single homeless people. In short, no one should be turned away [Crisis Bill in a nutshell pdf].  It builds on measures introduced in Wales and elsewhere which seek to prevent eviction [policy fact sheet 1(pdf)].

“In a nutshell, the Homelessness Reduction Bill transforms the help councils are expected to provide to homeless people.” Alice Ashworth, Crisis blog 23 March 2017

Critics have described it as ‘a small step in the right direction’ but have pointed out adequate funding is required [Dawn Foster, The Guardian 27 Jan 2017]. Without funding Shelter say there could be unintended  ‘gate-keeping’ of services and repeat homelessness (Shelter briefing on the Bill).

Lord Porter, chairman of the Local Government Association – which represents England’s councils, said: “It is clear that legislative change alone will not resolve homelessness. It is crucial that the government recognise and address the wider factors that are increasing homelessness, such as the lack of affordable housing and welfare reforms. Without this, the bill will struggle to achieve its aim of reducing homelessness.  Councils need powers and funding to address the widening gap between incomes and rents, resume their historic role as a major builder of new affordable homes and join up all local services – such as health, justice and skills. This is the only way to deliver our collective ambition to end homelessness.” [As reported by BBC News March 20 2017]

 

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