Next year will be the fortieth anniversary of the first piece of legislation passed by Parliament specifically giving protection to homeless people in the UK. It will also be 15 years since the last substantial law change which widened the groups who councils had a legal obligation to help. Some very high-profile cases last year showed that the current legislation appears to not be working in the ways that the architects intended.
On the 28th October 2016 the House of Commons will debate a potential change to the law which would constitute the biggest overhaul of homelessness duties in England for a generation. The Homelessness Reduction Bill has strong echoes of the changes introduced in Wales in 2014, which has given greater focus to homelessness prevention rather than crisis intervention, resulting in cultural change. It is early days, but the general feedback from Wales has been positive thus far.
This new Bill will introduce a range of new duties in England including:
A new duty for local authorities to take action to prevent the homelessness of anyone who is eligible for assistance (e.g. ‘habitually resident’ in the UK) and threatened with homelessness within 56 days, without regard to their priority need status.
A new duty for local authorities to take steps to relieve the homelessness of anyone who is currently homeless, eligible for assistance and has a local connection to the area.
The full homelessness duty of settled accommodation will remain in place for households who are eligible for assistance, homeless through no fault of their own, have a local connection, are in priority need and where the prevention and relief duties have failed.
A duty of emergency accommodation for anyone who is currently homeless, (including rough sleepers) eligible for assistance and is assessed as having nowhere safe to stay.
A new duty to cooperate will be introduced for applicants who are homeless or threatened with homelessness to ensure households take reasonable steps to resolve their own homelessness.
To have a realistic chance of success the Bill requires 100 supportive MPs to be present at the debate on the Bill in the Commons on 28 October 2016.
To try and increase active support for the Bill a Mass Lobby has been organised for the 19th October. This gives those who have experienced homelessness and other people who are concerned about it a chance to support the Bill. Those attending the Mass Lobby will be supported to engage with their local Member of Parliament and to encourage them to support the Bill.
The more people who attend the Mass Lobby, the more chance the Bill has off becoming law. More details of the lobby and how to be involved are contained in the attached documents below.