Welfare policy undermining homelessness attempts

New research has argued that government welfare policy is hindering local authority efforts to tackle homelessness.

The Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) and the University of Sheffield surveyed 106 councils and 50 housing associations and found that 84 per cent of councils and 70 per cent of housing associations think that welfare policies are negatively impacting their work to tackle homelessness.

Additionally, 72 per cent of local authorities and 71 per cent of housing associations also claimed that changes to funding levels were undermining the contribution they could make to tackling homelessness. A large portion of responses also said that limited entitlement to welfare assistance, meaning someone would be unable to afford their home, was the most common reason. for housing associations rejecting nominations of homeless households.

Terrie Alafat, chief executive of the CIH, said: "This research shows that welfare policy is seriously undermining the work that councils and housing associations can do to reduce homelessness. The government has stated its commitment to tackle homelessness and the Homelessness Reduction Act, which comes into effect next year, represents significant progress. But it is also clear that welfare policy is directly undermining that effort.

"Policies like the lower benefit cap are leaving people with significant gaps between the help they get with housing costs and their rent and this research highlights the direct impact that is having on the work councils and housing associations are trying to do together to help those most in need. We know from experience that tackling homelessness is possible but it requires a commitment from all government departments. If the government is serious about tackling our homelessness crisis it must urgently consider how it can create a policy framework which supports, and not undermines, what councils and housing associations can achieve together to tackle this huge problem."

Professor David Robinson, from the University of Sheffield, added: “The introduction of the Homeless Reduction Act has been widely welcomed. The act gives councils important new responsibilities and powers. However, councils cannot tackle homelessness on their own - they need help. Evidence that the vital role that housing associations traditionally play helping councils to reduce homelessness is being undermined is therefore deeply concerning. These findings underline why we urgently need a coordinated effort to tackle homelessness.”

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