Most social care professionals feel government has failed the homeless

The government’s approach to tackling homelessness has received
a resounding thumbs down from social care professionals, an
exclusive Community Care pre-election survey has revealed.

The poll of more than 1,000 social care professionals found that 61
per cent rate the government’s performance since 1997 in relation
to homelessness as fairly or very poor. This compares with just 2
per cent who describe the government’s work on homelessness as

In 1999 the government pledged to cut the number of rough sleepers
in England and Wales by two-thirds within three years and
established the rough sleepers unit to reach the target. While it
officially achieved this, controversy surrounded its methods of
counting rough sleepers. The number of households living in
temporary accommodation, meanwhile, has more than doubled to more
than 100,000 over the same period.

On whether housing association tenants should be given the right to
buy some or all of their homes, professionals are more divided: 35
per cent support such tenants being able to buy their homes
outright, 35 per cent agree with part ownership and 30 per cent are
against the idea.

An extension of the government’s Homebuy scheme, under which
housing association tenants can buy between half and three-quarter
shares in their homes with interest-free equity loans, and with the
future possibility of buying them outright was announced last week.
But homelessness charity Shelter said it was concerned the shift of
public money away from social rented housing towards subsidising
home ownership would not help the poorest in society.

Opinions over the concept of schemes to encourage young people and
key workers to live with older people for low rents in return for
helping them around the house are also split. Just over 40 per cent
of respondents think this is a fairly or very good idea, one-third
dismiss it as a fairly or very bad idea, and the rest are

  • Community Care surveyed 1,096 social care professionals on a
    range of election issues. Further results will be released over the
    coming weeks.

What the campaigners want the politicians to do
According to Homeless Link, the national membership
body for homelessness organisations across England and Wales, the
next government should:

  • Commit itself to ending homelessness within the next three
    terms of government and set out an investment and reform programme
    to achieve this.
  • Reform the Homelessness Act 2002 to include all categories of
    homeless people by 2012 using the approach taken in Scotland.
  • Ensure the assessment of housing and support needs are brought
  • Identify people at risk of homelessness and provide early
  • Ensure all homeless people in hostels receive an early
    assessment under homelessness law as well as for support
  • Ensure regional assemblies draw up regional homelessness and
    Supporting People strategies which contain targets to move people
    on from hostels and identify suitable accommodation.
  • Promote stronger powers to allow local authorities to bring
    empty homes into use.
  • Encourage self-build and self-renovation schemes that provide
    homes and training for homeless people.

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