Socialist Worker

New Tory act won’t curb rise in homelessness or deaths

by Alistair Farrow
Issue No. 2600

A homeless person in London

A homeless person in London (Pic: Neil Theasby)

The number of recorded deaths of homeless people has doubled in the past five years. At least 230 people died during the period.

Some 70 people were recorded as having died last year, compared to 31 in 2013.

Scandalously no branch of the state records homeless deaths nationally, and local authorities are not obliged to record or keep figures on rough sleeper deaths.

“These figures are likely to be an underestimate,” said Matthew Downie from homelessness charity Crisis.

“Those sleeping on our streets are 17 times more likely to be a victim of violence, twice as likely to die from infections, and nine times more likely to commit suicide.”

The figures include people who died in hostels, temporary accommodation and homeless shelters.

Several councils—including Manchester, Glasgow, Birmingham and Leeds—did not respond to requests for statistics.

Meanwhile, the Tories’ 2017 Homelessness Reduction Act began to be implemented this month.

Outrage at the increase in homelessness has forced small concessions.

So, someone can be classed as “threatened with homelessness” if they are likely to become homeless within 56 days, an increase on the current 28.

This gives people more time to apply for emergency help. But, unsurprisingly, the Tories are not providing extra funding.

So while the Act instructs local authorities to fulfil more duties in relation to homeless people and those at risk, it gives no more resources.

This means services and the workers who provide them are stretched to breaking point.

“People are living in bed and breakfasts but councils are going to run out of any extra funding,” said housing worker Jordan. “It’s not addressing the problem of the housing crisis and it’s going to result in social cleansing because councils will start moving people out of London.

“There’s increased demoralisation, we have people at my work looking for other work. People can’t carry out the work in the time they have.”

Some 75 percent more children are living in temporary accommodation compared to 2010. The figure stood at over 120,000 in December last year.

Tory minister for homelessness Heather Wheeler was asked last month why there were more rough sleepers. “In truth, I don’t know,” came her reply.

It’s no coincidence that the Tories have overseen a rise in homelessness and homeless deaths. Further changes to the welfare system, such as Universal Credit, will only mean more will die.

Jordan’s name has been changed

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