Bill fails to protect vulnerable in flats and bedsits, ministers told

Housing groups and charities are calling on the government to
extend protection in the Housing Bill to vulnerable people living
in flats and bedsits.

National housing charity Shelter said the bill, currently at
committee stage in the House of Lords, did not go far enough in
dealing with health and safety standards for houses in multiple
occupation (HMOs), putting at risk vulnerable people living in more
than 500,000 unregulated and unsafe properties.

The bill requires only HMOs of three or more storeys and with five
or more occupants to be licensed, whereas Shelter and local
authorities say many smaller properties are substandard.

Adam Sampson, director of Shelter, said: “The Housing Bill is an
opportunity to end the appalling conditions many extremely
vulnerable people are living in.”

He called on the government to introduce a comprehensive licensing
system to tackle all the dangerous conditions that are found in
many bedsits and HMOs.

“The bill as it stands will only protect some of the many thousands
of people whose lives are at risk because of failures in these
homes to meet basic health and safety regulations.”

The National Housing Federation is also fighting proposals to give
grants to private house builders. It argues that the private sector
“will not deliver sustainable neighbourhoods” for

Meanwhile, Shelter director of policy Sue Regan said the failure to
include housing professionals in new standards for interagency
working represented a “catalogue of missed opportunities”. She
listed “exclusion of housing representatives on local authority
child protection committees and the failure of the Children Bill to
give sufficient priority to the role of housing in child

She added that children in bad housing were often distant from
services and more likely to be at risk. Research showed joint
working was fragmented and failed to provide services for
vulnerable children.

The standards for professionals working in child protection,
devised following recommendations from the Victoria Climbie
inquiry, were published last week (news, page 6, 5 August).

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