Jack Dromey, Member of Parliament for Birmingham Erdington, has supported calls from Crisis and YMCA Birmingham to urge the government not to cut the Homelessness Prevention Grant.
There has been a 10% increase in homelessness in England since the Conservative government took power whilst Birmingham is the local authority with the highest number of cases of homelessness in the country. The rate of homelessness in Birmingham was also over double the national rate last year.
The Homelessness Prevention Grant (HPG) is a fund allocated to local authorities by the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) to prevent and resolve homelessness. It is currently £78.5ml a year with Birmingham City Council receiving over £1ml last year. This money funds a variety of projects including creative housing options, debt advice and mediation.
The HPG was not protected by the Chancellor in the Spending Review announced a fortnight ago and its future now rests on the announcement which will be made this week by Greg Clarke, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.
Jack Dromey said:
“In 21st century Britain it is fundamentally wrong that so many people become homeless. This Conservative government should be ashamed that it has overseen increases in all forms of homelessness.
There has been an increase in the number of people sleeping rough in England of 55% since 2010. In Birmingham there were 20 people a night without a bed to sleep in last year and work done by the Council shows this number is likely to jump by 75% next year.
Sleeping rough strips people of their dignity, it leads to severe mental and physical health problems, and drastically increases someone’s chances of being the subject of violence.
Homelessness is not limited, however, to people who sleep on the streets. Local councils step in to provide accommodation to people who are made homeless, but the housing that is provided is usually unstable and often, due to budgetary constraints, not adequate for a family.
In my constituency of Erdington there were 496 declarations of homelessness last year with over 5,000 cases across Birmingham. Not only is the trauma of homelessness awful for the individual or family affected but it costs the public purse far more money than if homelessness is prevented in the first place. That is why homelessness prevention spending is so important.
Cuts to housing benefit, £12bn of welfare cuts to come over the next 5 years and cuts of up to 30% to local council budgets mean that homelessness is likely to rise dramatically. That’s why the Homelessness Prevention Grant must be protected. It allows councils to prevent and resolve homelessness, including by nipping problems that may lead to homelessness in the bud.
I call on the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Greg Clarke, to do the right thing and maintain the Homelessness Prevention Grant.”
Alan Fraser, Chief Executive of YMCA Birmingham said:
“We have been very concerned to see rising homelessness across the city. All the evidence shows that preventing people becoming homeless in the first place is better for them and cheaper for the taxpayer than having to deal with the problem once people have nowhere to live. The Homelessness Prevention Grant is an important tool to help people stay out of the homeless system and we are keen to that it is protected at a time when it is more needed than ever.”
Mr Dromey added:
“I am proud to have the Orchard, a village for the young homeless and run by the YMCA in my constituency. I have had many local young people telling me heart-breaking stories of becoming homeless. The Orchard provides a roof over their heads, helping them to rebuild their lives. But Alan is right; we need action to prevent them becoming homeless in the first place and that’s why the Homelessness Prevention Grant is so important.”
Matt Green, Director of Crisis in Birmingham said:
“We know from the services we deliver in Birmingham that cutting the Homelessness Prevention Grant would be a disaster for people at risk of homelessness, including our own clients – without it the council will struggle provide help to single homeless people.
Last year, Birmingham council got over a million pounds for homelessness prevention and their work prevented 9,000 people from becoming homeless. We know prevention saves money and avoids the human cost of homelessness.
“The Government has already committed to protecting central government spending on homelessness – they now need to protect the Homelessness Prevention Grant too.”