Drastic action from government can end injustice of homelessness

World Homeless Day has sparked fresh calls for the Government to take “drastic action” to address homelessness. Latest figures show approximately 279 people were sleeping rough in Lambeth and 309 in Southwark in the year to April 2018.

Whilst this marks a decrease in the number of rough sleepers locally, Mrs Eshalomi said “with the lives and wellbeing of local people at stake, we cannot afford for the Government to sit on its hands.”

Changes to welfare are being blamed for more people being pushed into homelessness across the capital. Last year, a National Audit Office (NAO) report found that evictions in the private rented sector were the biggest single driver of homelessness nationally. The NAO attributed the rise in evictions to government welfare reforms, in particular, the capping and freezing of Local Housing Allowance.

In London, the roll out of Universal Credit is also leaving poorer Londoners struggling to keep up with their rent payments due to payment delays. In February this year, a BBC investigation found that 70% of council tenants on universal credit were in rent arrears.  

‘Hidden homelessness’ is also on the rise in London. Across the capital, more than 54,500 households are reliant on temporary accommodation. The latest available government data shows that, as of March 2018, Lambeth had 2,101 households in temporary accommodation, while Southwark had 1,436.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has acted to tackle homelessness and its causes, recently overseeing a slight drop in the number of rough sleepers in the capital for the first time in a decade. This includes investing £8.45 million per year on rough sleeping services. However, the Mayor’s Rough Sleeping Plan of Action estimates that £574 million of additional government funding is needed to end homelessness in London.

The tragic scale of the issue has been recently revealed by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, who have estimated that at least 109 homeless Londoners have died over the last 12 months. Mrs Eshalomi said it is “shameful” that so many Londoners have been left to suffer, and in some tragic circumstances, perish, on London’s streets.

Local Assembly Member, Florence Eshalomi AM, said:

“It is shameful that so many Londoners have been left to suffer, and in the most tragic circumstances, perish, on our streets. Thousands more families are left to languish in unsuitable temporary accommodation, and hidden homelessness is also on the increase. With the right political interventions, we can turn this sad situation around.  

“We need the Government to urgently take drastic action and join the Mayor in trying to bring this awful injustice to an end. The Prime Minister tells us austerity has had its time. I want to see her warm words followed with action to reverse the Government’s ruthless cuts to public services. I want to see the Government swiftly reconsider their disastrous welfare reforms which have presided over a rise in homelessness. With the lives and wellbeing of local people at stake, we cannot afford for the Government to sit on its hands.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

  • The latest available data from the Greater London Authority (GLA) shows that between April 2017 and April 2018, the number of rough sleepers recorded in Lambeth was 279 and 309 in Southwark
  • This marks an decrease on the number of rough sleepers in Lambeth during the same period in the previous year, which stood at 355
  • This marks an decrease on the number of rough sleepers in Southwark during the same period in the previous year, which stood at 318
  • 2017 report by the National Audit Office (NAO), found that the evictions in the private rented sector were the biggest single driver of homelessness nationally
  • The NAO have attributed the spike in evictions to welfare reforms (NAO 2017 report, Key Findings administered by successive governments since 2011, in particular, the capping and freezing of Local Housing Allowance (LHA), which has caused rents to become increasingly unaffordable for some of the poorest and vulnerable households
  • A February 2018 BBC report found that more than 70% of council tenants in London on universal credit were in rent arrears
  • Across London, more than 54,500 households are currently in temporary accommodation
  • In March 2018, Lambeth had 2,101 households in temporary accommodation
  • In March 2018, Southwark had 1,436 households in temporary accommodation
  • In June 2018, the Mayor of London reported an 8% decrease in the number of rough sleepers in the capital for the first time in a decade
  • The Bureau of Investigative Journalism have recently estimated that at least 109 homeless Londoners have died over the last 12 months
  • More information about the Mayor’s Rough Sleeping Action Plan can be found here
  • Florence Eshalomi AM is London Assembly Member for Lambeth and Southwark