Prescott hint raises fears for teenagers

Teenagers and vulnerable adults classed as priority groups under
homelessness legislation could be left to fend for themselves, it
is feared.

Deputy prime minister John Prescott told housing charity Shelter
that he believed homelessness referred to “people on the streets” –
an interpretation that would redefine the accepted meaning.

Prescott questioned whether people living in temporary
accommodation could still be classed as homeless, and pledged to
open a proper debate on the issue. He was speaking at a conference
organised by the Thames Gateway Forum last month.

Charities warned that redefining homelessness as rough sleeping
would excuse councils from a statutory responsibility for anyone
without children living in temporary accommodation.

“It’s 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 more
difficult 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.

A spokesperson for the deputy prime minister denied there was any
formal review of homelessness or plans to change the definition.

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