In Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) today, Jeremy Corbyn highlighted the fact that 128,000 children will be homeless this Christmas and asked Theresa May the simple question whether she would pledge that fewer will be homeless by next Christmas.
In response, May made a startling admission – that in spite of the huge increase in the number of homeless children, her government only intends to do what what it has already done.
Which has resulted in a huge increase in homelessness.
Here’s the exchange:
- a measure allowing councils to put people into private rented acommodation that has been in place since 2011
- a previous change to the law supposed to prevent families with children living in ‘bed & breakfast’ (B&B) accommodation ‘except in an emergency’
- the Homelessness Reduction Act (HRA) – which became law seven months ago
The first two measures clearly have not prevented a massive increase in homelessness and particularly in the number of homeless children, since both have continued to go up.
Homelessness has risen by 50% since the Tories entered Downing Street, as Full Fact has shown:
And as Corbyn pointed out, that increase has been faster among children, with an increase of 60%.
The only measure she might try to argue is new is the HRA. Although this came into law more than seven months ago, the Tories do not intend to implement it before April next year. However, the Act – which was not even a government measure but rather began as a private member’s bill – does not add a single new home or guarantee a single extra person finding one – and as the Daily Mirror pointed out, the government only funded 199 homes in six months:
Instead, it places a responsibility on local authorities to offer ‘information and advice’ to homeless people for a longer period than under current legislation. As a briefing by homelessness charity Homeless Link makes clear,
Housing authorities merely have to provide ‘support’ in the form of help to create a ‘personalised housing plan’ that is supposed to help homeless people find a home – but do not have to provide one.
The Act does require local authorities to provide temporary accommodation – which means the person or family is still homeless – but only to people in ‘priority need’. In other words, the ‘B&B’ accommodation that huge numbers of children are stuck in this Christmas will qualify.
The thing conspicuous by its absence in Mrs May’s ‘response’ was the one thing Corbyn actually asked her – there was no promise to make sure that fewer children will have be ‘without a home to call their own’ by Christmas next year.
Not even one fewer.
Instead, based on Mrs May’s ‘response’ at PMQs today, all that will stand between the tragedy of Christmas 2017 or worse becoming the disaster of ‘Christmas Future’ is some ‘information and advice’.
Information and advice that she doesn’t even appear to have enough confidence in to make a promise of ‘fewer’ children being homeless by this time next year.
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