Sajid Javid, the Communities Secretary, has announced the Government will support reforms to England’s anti-homelessness laws and strengthen councils’ duties to stop people ending up on the streets.
If the private member's bill – put forward by Conservative MP Bob Blackman – becomes law it will place a duty on local authorities to help eligible people at risk of homelessness to secure accommodation, 56 days before they are threatened with eviction.
Announcing the Government’s support of the bill, Mr Javid said: “No one should have to sleep rough on the streets. We want to build a country that works for everyone, not just the privileged few. That's why we are determined to do all we can to help those who lose their homes and provide them with the support they need to get their lives back on track.
“This Government is therefore, very pleased to support Bob Blackman MP’s Private Members Bill, with its ambitious measures to help reduce homelessness.”
Earlier this month The Independent revealed ministers were considering backing the new law to strengthen councils’ duties to stop people becoming homeless.
Mr Blackman, the Conservative MP for Harrow East, said he welcomed the Government’s decision. He added: “Throughout my 24 years in local government prior to becoming an MP, I saw the devastation that can be caused by homelessness first hand, with too many people simply slipping through the net under the current arrangements.
“By backing this bill, the Government is demonstrating its commitment to an agenda of social justice and also shows that it is willing to listen. I look forward to working with Ministers going forward in order to bring about this important change in legislation.”
He had agreed some technical changes to the bill last week after discussions with the Government and feedback from councils.
Crisis, the national charity for homeless people, welcomed the Government’s commitment but warned that unless “MPs offer their support at the bill’s second reading on Friday, this historic opportunity could easily be lost”.
Jon Sparkes, the charity’s chief executive, added: “This is a credible and much-needed piece of legislation which now has the backing of the Government, the opposition and the Communities and Local Government Select Committee. The cross-party consensus is there, and we hope that MPs from across the political spectrum will come together on October 28 to vote on the bill.
“Helping people to stay off the streets and rebuild their lives is about basic social justice – it’s the right thing to do – but it also makes good economic sense. New research from Crisis has revealed how preventing 40,000 people from becoming homelessness could save the public purse up to £370m a year, or just over £9,000 per year for every person helped. The logic is clear: preventing homelessness saves lives, but also reduces public costs.
“For 40 years we’ve had a system that fails too many homeless people and turns them away at their time of need. The Homelessness Reduction Bill could help put an end to that injustice once and for all. It is a major opportunity to improve the rights of people currently shut out of the system, whist continuing to protect families with children."
Lord Porter, the chairman of the Local Government Association, which represents councils and had opposed an earlier draft of the Bill, said granting councils the ability to build homes would be a more effective step towards ending homelessness and the housing crisis in general.
“Councils want to end homelessness and are already doing everything they can within existing resources to prevent and tackle it. However, there is no silver bullet, and councils alone cannot tackle rising homelessness. The causes of homelessness are many and varied and range from financial to social," he said.
“After having worked closely with Bob Blackman, we are confident that the new Bill, if it does go through Parliament, will be in a better place.
“However, it is clear that legislative change alone will not resolve homelessness. If we are all to succeed, then all new duties proposed in the Bill will need to be fully funded. Councils need powers to resume our role as a major builder of affordable homes."