Jeremy Corbyn today reiterates his pledge to eradicate rough sleeping within the first term of a Labour government, saying the recent death of a homeless man outside Parliament should act as a wake-up call.
His remarks come as a fresh analysis by Labour claims that 5,000 homeless people – including those on the streets, in hostels, and temporary accommodation – are suffering from mental health issues this festive period.
The alarming figure, Mr Corbyn said in an interview with The Independent, has increased since 2010 and was a “symptom of the crisis in mental health” in the country.
Using data available from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), Labour’s analysis claimed 5,470 homeless people will be suffering from mental illness over the Christmas period.
This is a figure that has increased by almost three quarters – 71 per cent – since 2010 when the Conservatives entered a coalition with the Liberal Democrats.
Asked whether he planned to eradicate rough sleeping in the first term of a Labour government, Mr Corbyn said: “Absolutely – I would want to be judged by our success in ending absolute poverty and homeless in this country.
“I have spent my whole life being a constituency MP and a councillor for highly-stressed inner urban areas. I would use every opportunity possible to end homelessness and destitution in our society.”
His remarks come after separate figures released in December also revealed nearly 600 homeless people died in 2017 in England and Wales, according to data collated by the Office for National Statistics (NAO).
And just last week Gyula Remes, 43, was found by British Transport Police collapsed yards away from one of the entrances to parliament. Although officers administered first aid, he died hours later in hospital.
Asked whether it should act as wake-up call to politicians, Mr Corbyn replied: “It should be – it’s not the first one, there was another last year.”
Speaking earlier this week James Brokenshire, the housing secretary, admitted that a rise in rough sleeping could be down to his party’s policies in an interview with Politico’s London Playbook.
The cabinet minister said the Conservatives have to “look and reflect on ourselves as to the increase”, adding: “Yes there are other factors that are relevant here, but we have to look at the policy – and I do think we need to look at changes to policy. I’ve already started, and others in government have done so too.”
Responding to Labour’s analysis, the minister for homelessness, Heather Wheeler, added: “We are committed to tackling all forms of homelessness and supporting people with mental illnesses.
“We are investing £1.2bn to tackle homelessness in all its forms and have asked NHS England to spend £30m over the next five years on health services for those rough sleeping.
“Councils have a duty to help people into temporary accommodation and we have introduced a new law to ensure they get faster access to this support.”
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