Crisis presses for law change to curb rough sleeping in light of shocking new official statistics

23 February 2012

Shocked by the 23% rise in official figures for rough sleeping, national single homelessness charity Crisis is pressing for law change to make sure local councils help anyone facing homelessness.

The Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) today [see editor's note] revealed that 2,181 people were recorded by local councils across the country as sleeping rough on any one night, up from 1,768 in last year's count. Under guidance introduced last year all local authorities in England should provide a figure based either on street counts or estimates in conjunction with partner agencies.

Leslie Morphy, Chief Executive of Crisis, said: "The Government must learn from these figures and ensure that the services and help homeless people need are available in every area. It is shocking that in the 21st century there is still no right to shelter - a single homeless person can approach their council for help and be turned away to sleep on the streets [1].

"Our No One Turned Away campaign is pressing for a change in the law so that every homeless person who approaches their local council for help gets the advice and support they need and no-one is forced to sleep rough. In the face of these shocking figures it is all the more important that government acts now.

"This rise in the number of people facing the horrors of rough sleeping is truly worrying and must be a wake-up call. Our very real fear is this is just the tip of the iceberg and the worst is yet to come.

"Independent research[2] for Crisis last year  predicted that homelessness in all its forms - not just those we see sleeping on the streets - will increase yet further due to the continuing impact of the economic downturn with rising unemployment and soaring demand for limited affordable housing, and government policy to cut benefits and services, particularly housing benefit."

In response to plans the Government set out to allocate £18.5 million in funding to local authorities to help prevent single homelessness Leslie Morphy said:

 "This funding is a welcome acknowledgement by the Government that the safety net for single people at risk of homelessness is sorely lacking. It is a step in the right direction but we are concerned it will not be enough to mitigate the impact of rising homelessness and cuts in services and support. We must also do more to stop people becoming homeless in the first place by changing the law so all get the help they need. In fact the Government itself is adding to the problem through its cuts to housing benefit up and down the country"

For further media information or to request an interview with a Crisis spokesperson, call 020 7426 3880 or email media@crisis.org.uk

ENDS

Notes to editors

Full figures for rough sleeping are published here:

http://www.communities.gov.uk/publications/corporate/statistics/roughsleepingautumn2011

[1] Under the existing homelessness legislation single people are not considered a priority for housing. They should get meaningful advice and assistance but too often this just doesn't happen. As the first place that many turn, local councils are in a unique position to help people out of homelessness. When they fail to do so, those in need of help can be left with nowhere to go but the streets and can quickly spiral deeper into homelessness.

The consequences are often severe: research for Crisis has highlighted that a fifth of homeless women have resorted to sex work to fund accommodation and almost one in five single homeless people have turned up at A&E just looking for somewhere to sleep.

With homelessness rising change is needed more than ever and central Government must take the lead. We know councils are under pressure and funding is tight - that is why Crisis is calling for the law to be changed to guarantee single homeless people get the help they need.

Through its No One Turned Away campaign http://www.crisis.org.uk/pages/no-one-turned-away.html Crisis is calling for the law to be changed so that all homeless people have a right to meaningful written advice, real assistance and emergency accommodation when they ask their council for help, wherever in the country they live.

[2] The Homelessness Monitor: Tracking the Impacts of Policy and Economic Change in England, http://www.crisis.org.uk/publications-search.php?fullitem=332 commissioned by Crisis and undertaken by Heriot-Watt University and the University of York, warns that after years of stable or falling levels of homelessness, 2010 marked the turning point when homelessness in all its forms started to rise again.

The research predicted that the worst is yet to come as the continuing economic downturn combined with the Coalition Government's radical reforms and weakening of the welfare state will leave many more people facing the threat or reality of homelessness.

Crisis

Crisis is the national charity for single homeless people. We are dedicated to ending homelessness by delivering life-changing services and campaigning for change. Our innovative education, employment, housing and well-being services address individual needs and help people to transform their lives. We are determined campaigners, working to prevent people from becoming homeless and advocating solutions informed by research and our direct experience. We have ambitious plans for the future and are committed to help more people in more places across the UK. We know we won't end homelessness overnight or on our own. But we take a lead, collaborate with others and, together, make change happen.

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