Crisis at the Conservative Party Conference
Crisis held a fringe event at the Conservative Party Conference asking "Can the Coalition Government end Homelessness?".As well as Crisis Director of Policy and External Affairs Duncan Shrubsole, the speakers at the event were the Mayor of London’s Housing Adviser Richard Blakeway, Stephen Hammond MP, who is PPS to Eric Pickles, and Westminster Councillor Philippa Roe, who has responsibility for housing benefit. The discussion was chaired by Alex Morton, Senior Research Fellow for Housing and Planning at the think tank Policy Exchange.
Richard Blakeway explained the work that the Mayor and the GLA are doing to tackle rough sleeping in the capital, focussing especially on the No Second Night Out programme which has had early successes in reconnecting homeless people with services and support networks.
Stephen Hammond gave a Government perspective, outlining the protection of the homelessness grant and the potential that the ministerial working group on homelessness has to coordinate work across departments.
Philippa Roe defended the cuts that are taking place to housing benefit and which will have a particular impact in Westminster. She argued that the local authority has made adequate preparations and that good transport links to central London will minimise the disruption to those who have to move away from schools or jobs in the borough.
Duncan Shrubsole welcomed the formation of the ministerial working group on homelessness and the commitment that Grant Shapps has shown to the issue of single homelessness. However, he argued that recent research commissioned by Crisis has shown that this year is likely to be a turning point, with homelessness rising once more and cuts to welfare budgets and changes to homelessness legislation threatening to make the situation worse.
He called for national government to consider what impact all its policies will have on homelessness and for councillors to make sure that services at a local level do enough for single people.