MPs angry at councils’ approach to homelessness

Councils that reject too many homelessness applications may be
bending the rules and should be reported to the Audit Commission,
says a new report by MPs, writes Craig

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister’s select committee
found it ‘extraordinary’ that the homelessness
legislation is interpreted so differently in various areas.

In London last year, 44 per cent of applications for
homelessness status were successful, compared to just nine per cent
in Doncaster.

‘Statutory definitions are being inconsistently and
carelessly applied; authorities seem to look for reasons to turn
people away rather than help,’ says the report.

‘There are suspicions that “gatekeeping” is
getting tougher to keep the number of acceptances down because
authorities cannot cope with demand.’

Evidence that some social services departments
‘offer’ to take children into care when families are
decreed ‘intentionally homeless’ leads MPs to call for
more explicit guidance on this issue.

The report also urges clearer guidance on the definition of
vulnerable persons, particularly for those with mental health
problems or learning disabilities

Criticism that the government is not doing enough to reduce the
numbers of homeless people in temporary accommodation had already
been defused by the announcement of more ambitious targets by the
ODPM earlier this week.

Earlier plans to reduce the numbers in temporary accommodation
by 30,000 by 2016 were called ‘embarrassing’ in the
report. New targets set this week will cut the numbers by 50,000 by

MPs’ opposition to any extension of the Right to Buy
scheme also appears to have been heeded. Instead, the ODPM is
extending the Homebuy scheme, allowing housing association tenants
to buy ½ to ¾ shares in their homes. Housing associations
will have first refusal if the tenant sells up.

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