Recent figures show that the number of homeless households in England has risen by 25% in the past three years. In the same period, government spending on tackling homelessness has fallen from £213.7 million to £199.8 million.
In a few weeks at Labour Party Conference Young Labour will launch its first ever priority campaign and I’m proud that our members voted to make tackling youth homelessness our priority.
Homelessness is an issue that is too often overlooked, at the expense of over 50,000 families and individuals identified as homeless and in need of emergency accommodation. Thousands more people are living in sub-standard accommodation and are struggling to navigate their way through a private-rented sector that is under-regulated. So much more needs to be done to tackle this issue but instead we have a government whose policies are only making the situation worse.
This coalition government is ignoring the impact of its policies on homelessness. David Cameron has proposed cutting housing benefit for under-25s, potentially forcing 380,000 people out of their homes. Not everyone in this situation will be able to move back in with their family and this will only serve to increase homelessness further. It’s clear that, under Cameron’s government, we are not all in this together.
At a time when the government is spending less on combating homelessness, cutting housing benefit for under-25s and building less social and affordable housing, young people should be standing up and acting.
The situation for many young people is dire. Many young homeless people do not fall into a “priority need” category, meaning there is no legal obligation for local authorities to provide them with emergency accommodation. Young people have been turned away from their local authorities without receiving so much as advice.
This has to change.
We’ve seen the good that Labour-controlled councils can do in spite of the cuts imposed on them by the Tory-led government. Birmingham City Council has committed to building 5,000 new homes a year. Liverpool City Council is building 2,500 homes. We may not be in government but we can bring about real change on a local level and we should be doing more.
Many young people desperately need the advice and support that local authorities can provide and I can’t wait to start work on Young Labour’s campaign to ensure that they aren’t ignored.