Change of homelessness definition could place vulnerable at risk

Teenagers and vulnerable adults currently classed as priority
groups under homelessness legislation could be left to fend for
themselves under alleged plans by the deputy prime minister to
change the definition of homelessness, writes Shirley

John Prescott told housing charity Shelter last month that
homelessness to him meant “people on the streets”.

Speaking at a conference organised by the Thames Gateway Forum,
Prescott questioned whether people living in temporary
accommodation such as hostel and bed and breakfast accommodation
could still be classed as homeless, and pledged to open a proper
debate on the issue at a later date.

But charities warned that redefining homelessness as rough
sleeping would mean councils would no longer have a statutory
responsibility for anyone without children living in temporary

“It’s very short sighted and flies in the face of
seven years of preventive Labour policy,” said Centrepoint
director of services Rebecca Pritchard. “It would lead to
more people on the streets, followed by a reactive and crisis
management response.”

The Foyer Federation warned that the move would make it harder
for people to access vital services. “If the definition is
changed, social services and councils may change the way they refer
vulnerable people to us,” said a spokesperson.

Homeless figures for all those in priority need, due later this
month, are expected to break through the 100,000 mark.

Council B&B budgets in England and Wales have also soured
since the government extended priority groups in 2002 to include
16-17 year-olds, young people leaving care, domestic violence
victims and individuals leaving institutions in 2002.

A spokesperson for the Office of Deputy Prime Minister denied
there was any formal review of homelessness or plans to change the
current definition.

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