The Committee welcomes the Homelessness Reduction Bill's ( PDF 211 KB) focus on homelessness prevention. It also supports the Bill's requirement for the Government to provide a mandatory code of practice for councils and for local housing authorities (LHA) to carry out assessments of all homelessness applications they receive.
The Committee has conducted pre-legislative scrutiny of the Private Members' Bill, which has been tabled by one of its members, Bob Blackman MP, to implement some of the recommendations of its report on homelessness, published in August 2016. This process has no direct precedent in Parliament.
The new report recommends changes to the Bill, which include adding domestic violence victims to the list of people for whose needs a local authority's advice must be especially designed to meet. The Committee also calls for consideration of a stronger duty for councils to accommodate certain groups within a reasonable distance of their last address, such as those with mental health conditions or with children in school.
Clive Betts MP, Chair of the Communities and Local Government Committee, said:
"The Committee strongly supports the Homelessness Reduction Bill, which seeks to address many of the issues we found during our earlier inquiry into homelessness. These included unacceptable levels of service at some local authorities, where people who are homeless or in danger of becoming homeless often face a hostile process.
After taking further detailed evidence on the Bill itself, we welcome its introduction of a mandatory code of good practice for councils. The Committee also supports the Bill's emphasis on homelessness prevention, provision for domestic violence victims and consideration for those with mental health conditions.
But we are also mindful that the Bill will increase pressure on local authority resources. Comments by Ministers suggesting that the Government will help meet these financial burdens are welcome and we urge the Department of Communities and Local Government to work with councils to develop a funding model that reflects local demand.
Such close co-operation is vital to the successful implementation of the Bill as is a renewed, cross-Departmental Government strategy to end homelessness.
The approach taken by the Committee and our colleague Bob Blackman MP is unique and we believe our experience is a model on which other Select Committees and sponsors of Private Members' Bills can draw."
Recommended changes to the Bill
Further changes recommended to the Bill, which is scheduled for a Second Reading in the Commons Chamber on Friday 28 October 2016, include:
- Reword Clause 8: Becoming homeless intentionally because it is too broad and should be redrafted to ensure protections for vulnerable people in priority need are not weakened.
- Revise Clause 9: Somewhere safe to stay to restrict the duty for councils to provide 56 days of emergency accommodation to those whose safety is at risk. It is not feasible for local authorities to provide accommodation to all homeless people.
- Remove Clause 12: Definition of local connection. The Committee does not believe that there is consensus for changes to the rules.
- Amend Clause 14: Reviews of decisions to restrict the scope of reviews because of the potential impact on local authority resources of a significant increase in such cases.
- Reinforce Clause 17: Co-operation between authorities and others with statutory guidance to make it clear that the diversion of funds away from a body's primary duties is not a reason to withhold co-operation with measures to reduce homelessness