Government statistics released today show that the number of people “sleeping rough” on our streets have increased by 16% since last year — and has more than doubled since the Tories came into power in 2010 — from 1,768 to 4,134.
However, this statistic is largely misleading as it vastly underestimates the true scope of homelessness — which doesn’t just apply to people who are fighting for survival, whilst living and sleeping on the street in the freezing cold, in a state of starvation at any one time. Homelessness charity Crisis recently reported that 275,000 people approached their local councils for homelessness assistance — a 34% increase since 2010 — and noted that this figure rarely makes it into headline news. This makes the actual levels of homelessness comparable to those not seen since the victorian period. Tory policies are at the heart of this rapid growth — housing benefit cuts — other welfare cuts — a complete lack of affordable and suitable housing — zero hours contracts — a 40% cut to homelessness services — are just some of the reasons for this rapid growth.
The impact of homelessness is felt across the entire society — homelessness costs the taxpayer more than it would to house them. Homelessness has a severe impact on mental and physical health — the average age of death is 47 for someone who is homeless — it affects young people disproportionately — 20% of women become homeless because just they fled violence from somebody they know — and many homeless people face violence on the streets every day.
The UK is the fifth richest country on the face of the earth — the Tories are driving us into a barbaric wasteland in which the amount of suffering and poverty continues to rapidly excel — resigning more and more people to the fringes of society.
The BBC reported today on new statistics released by the government regarding the number of people “sleeping rough” on England’s streets. They illustrate what many of us have been witnessing since the Tories came to power in 2010: the rapid and shocking increase in the number of homeless people in our towns and cities.
Responding to these dire statistics Jon Sparkes, Cheif Executive of the homelessness charity Crisis said:
The number of people sleeping on our streets continues to rise at an appalling rate. Behind these statistics are thousands of desperate people, sleeping in doorways, bin shelters, stations and parks – anywhere they can find to stay safe and escape the elements.
Rough sleeping ruins lives, leaving people vulnerable to violence and abuse, and taking a dreadful toll on their mental and physical health. Our recent research has shown how rough sleepers are 17 times more likely to be victims of violence. This is no way for anyone to live.
There is no time to waste. We need the Government to take action on this issue, and we stand ready to work with officials to plan and deliver an ambitious new approach. The Government has already shown leadership on plans to expand homelessness prevention, and in light of today’s figures, we hope they will now extend this approach to helping those on the street. It’s time we came together to put an end to this scandal – Government, local authorities, and charities.
Although Mr. Sparkes’ tone is largely critical of the government it is hard to know which government policies he is referring to when stating that they have already shown leadership to “expand homelessness prevention” — perhaps he didn’t mean to put that last word in?
According to Crisis over half of homelessness services have seen their funding cut over the last 4 years under the Tories, and are facing a further 40% cut.
Today’s government statistics do not show the full extent of homelessness, and its rapid acceleration under the Tories — which has now grown to be roughly the same as they were in the early 1900’s.
In 2015/16 275,000 people approached their local authority for statutory homelessness assistance — a 34% increase since the Tories came into power. In 1906 the Departmental Committee on Vagrancy suggested that there were about 20,000 — 30,000 permanent vagrants.
The modern day equivalent of these vagrants would be the 75,000 people who currently use hostels every year. In the victorian period, the majority of homeless people weren’t to be found sleeping on the streets, they were hidden lodgings and accommodation provided by charities — the same is true of today’s homeless population. The statistics the government released today merely give a glimpse into the full spectrum of the problem.
The fact that homelessness has risen so dramatically under the Tories should of no surprise to anybody, the lack of care or urgency with which they treat the matter should be shocking to us all.
Tory policies are largely responsible for this rise: the complete lack of affordable housing, and the virtual non-existence of new social housing playing a key part in this. The supply of affordable housing has simply not kept up with demand for many, many decades — New Labour only built 562 council houses a year on average. In 2013/14 it was estimated that 250,000 new houses needed to built — the Tories only managed 150,000. The government has pledged to build 275,000 new “starter homes” by 2020 — yet this is nearly four times less than the 1 Million homes that the Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning has advised. Of course, as well as this, these “starter homes” will only have a 20% mortgage discount — meaning they are no substitute for the 1.8 million people currently on the waiting list for council homes (a figure that has increased by 81 per cent since 1997.) Since the Tories introduced the right to buy for council tenants in the 1980’s the amount of council housing has fallen from 5 million in 1981 to 1.7 million in 2014.
The Tories brutal cuts to welfare benefits have also contributed significantly to the homelessness crisis and have had a particularly devastating impact on young people — 8% of 18-24-year-olds have reported being homeless. Housing benefit was cut by £7Billion since the Tories came into power — and housing benefit has been frozen for many people — meaning that they simply can’t afford to live in even the most basic accommodation. The Tories punitive, cruel, barely legal sanction system is a known cause of homeless — 1 in 5 sanctions leads directly to homelessness. The precarious nature of modern employment — in particular, zero hours contracts are yet another factor in the rise of homelessness.
The impact of being homelessness is catastrophic, especially on physical and mental health — around 80% of homeless people have mental health problems — and the longer they are homeless they greater the risk, and severity. The average age of death for a homeless person is just 47. Homeless people are 13 times more likely to be victims of violence, usually, this is perpetuated by a member of the public.
As with all the Tory cuts and “austerity,” we are told that this is the necessary pain needed to save the country from certain economic doom. Yet, there is growing evidence that we spend more on the homeless through services such as the Police and the NHS, than if they were re-housed and supported properly. And of course, the Police, and NHS are also overstretched and underfunded due to the Tories’ economic barbarism.
The last six years have been a testament to a failed economic policy that has increased poverty and homelessness and dragged us back into the victorian days. The only politicians who have been willing to stand up to the Tories are Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn & Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell. who have said that they will build at least 1 Million affordable homes should they get into power, and reverse Tory austerity.
Given the size of the problem and its rapid acceleration, even these proposals seem modest. The Tories are doing this best to run the country into the ground — and take down anybody who isn’t part of their elitist club. You may believe that homelessness won’t ever affect you, yet how many people who are currently homeless ever thought they would be?
If we allow this to continue, then don’t be surprised if one day you are yet another one of the Tories’ victims.
The Department for Communities and Local Government refused to respond to the BBC regarding the statistics they released today.