Campaign Founder, #HugosEarthquake
Campaign Founder, #HugosEarthquake
74 year old Cardon Banfield, who tragically passed away and decomposed in a tent this summer, is the latest victim of the shambles that is Worcester City and Worcestershire county’s homeless provision.
I am SICK of not hearing someone taking part-responsibility around Mr Banfield’s death, why homelessness is so bad and the ever-rotating rhetoric that money is running out and we need more.
We all know that services are being reduced, we have all seen the effects of it – but homelessness isn’t like bin collections or road markings… This is PEOPLE’S LIVES and we should respect them. Yet, homeless services get decimated by an austerity agenda which has seen numerous deaths, and worse, suicides from around the country and in Worcestershire.
This is not me or my Campaign sticking up for one provider or another, siding with just one argument or not able to listen to different arguments – this is a simple call for justice: Justice for Cardon Banfield and all the couple of hundred of homeless people around Worcestershire who suffer at the hands of untrusting workers, struggling services, incompetency at the hands of Elected Politicians and tax-paid Civil Servants and lack of co-ordination.
Over the last five years, we have had a legacy of the Supporting People programme sitting in the Worcestershire Homelessness Strategy, but during that period the large amounts of money diminished and co-ordination of services suffered the biggest blow. The Worcestershire LinkUp Database was a place where all clients who accessed homeless support would have their story, support and records in one place and available to all services went in 2014. This removed the joined up approach which Government recommended, Serious Case Reviews have pointed out and other Local Authority areas have in place.
Last year when ‘Hugo’s Earthquake’ was at infancy stage, I campaigned very hard against the City Council to firstly apologise for the comment that rough sleeping is a lifestyle choice but just as importantly, get a Homeless Forum which would join up all the services and put them around a table to discuss provision.
Worcester has a very high number of housing and support services per capita, but some of the highest homeless figures for a Shire per capita… There are many duplications of services but also gaps in provision and this isn’t good enough because vulnerable people are suffering – and have suffered.
It is indisputable that Cardon should have had better support around him – namely an Outreach Team but it tragically got decimated between February and April 2016 by Worcester City Council. CCP obtained the contract and refused to challenge it, knowing full well that rough sleeping is a huge issue in the City because of the 2015 November rough sleeper count figures. The horrific circumstances of someone decomposing in a tent and smelling so bad only then someone noticed, cannot go without part or whole responsibility being taken by Worcester Conservatives who ran the City Council at the time of the Contract being written, CCP for not having him on their books or Maggs Day Centre for categorically failing to pass on information or signpost to get Mr Banfield help for his problems.
Rough sleeping isn’t just about trying to get someone into a spare bed, but instead trying to build a positive relationship with them so they can, when they see fit and not the worker, get support and help for their issues. By both results and research, an Outreach Team with qualified workers (both from experience and formal training) is the only sustainable method of supporting Britain’s rough sleepers into accommodation and getting achievable, measurable outcomes for them.
Although I kick myself for using that word ‘outcomes’, because it suggests vulnerable people who are 6 times more likely to commit suicide compared to the general population, are just pawns in a game of workers getting wages at the end of the month. Where has the humanity in the system gone? We have a collection of people whose first priority is the money, and not the homeless person bedding down on the concrete pillow that night. That is fundamentally wrong, and in Worcestershire at least – I will work tirelessly hard to change it.
Mr Banfield might have indeed died from natural causes, however the system that the taxpayers contribute to let him down because no one raised the question of “where’s Cardon lately?”. That very question epitomises the massive issue I have with Worcester City Council Politicians & Officers, CCP and Maggs:
Maggs’ Chief Executive Mel Kirk claims that the organisation doesn’t keep track of their service users because of “lack of statutory funding”, CCP’s Deputy Chief Executive Dave Jones admitted to me on in a phone conversation that they did not know of Cardon Banfield in their new ‘Homeless Prevention Service’ and Worcester City Council claim they just didn’t know of him at all.
When you are paid to deliver a service, and you are in an area of work as human-centered as homelessness support is, IT IS DISGRACEFUL AND INEXCUSABLE to single-handedly or collectively hide behind money or ignorance at the expense of a human being’s life and consequent loss of. And yes, I will name and shame these people and proud to blow the lid on it – because if only;
we might have had a better and healthier outcome for an elderly gentleman sleeping on the banks of the River Severn.
In their Contract written and awarded by Worcester City Council, CCP have got to legally deliver a “light touch” service to rough sleepers and “reduce accident admissions to A&E departments” – but neither ‘light touch’ or ‘accident’ are defined, and that leaves the terms open to abuse, interpretation and lack of accountability.
Having these obscurities in a service that deals with upset, traumatised and vulnerable people, many of whom don’t know the system anyway, is only ever going to run reasonably well (whilst being very high risk) for a limited time.
The simple facts are; the Homeless Forum I successfully campaigned for should have been set up earlier and working with agencies to discuss duplications and gaps, the Contract should have been scrutinised by Political Parties before authorising, a better analysis of services for rough sleepers happened by the Council Officers, Maggs Day Centre should have kept even a small record of Mr Banfield’s movements and connections (and referred to CCP), and CCP should have publically defined what “light touch” meant, and if that has changed in light of Cardon Banfield’s death.
There are many people who have ties to – what I called it at the beginning of this piece – shambles of homeless services in Worcester City and the county as a whole, and I will spend whatever amount of time, for however long I need to make sure the situation is rectified. Nothing anyone does can bring Cardon back, but we can make sure he did not die and left to decompose and rot in vain.
Just in the last few days, I have personally submitted for a Freedom of Information Request of the CCP bid and promises of delivery to the Contract, initiated the Contract to go to the City Council’s Scrutiny Panel immediately by the Worcester Conservative Party and written to the Worcestershire written, televised and radio press about this issue.
I graduated with a Youth and Community Work Degree on Thursday because I stand up for the ones who have little or no voice. Communities, individuals or young people it doesn’t matter – what matters is a human life worth the same as the next person’s and that if one gets lost, a responsibility and accountability lies somewhere. It’s in my values, ethics and morals to stand up for a gentleman who made mistakes, didn’t behave the best but who got pushed out because of many different reasons but to make it all worse – was left to die in the most disgusting and vile way in a modern society. No one should end their life like that, ever.
I will not back down, I will not silence, I will not hold back and I promise a Worcestershire Homeless Forum, a better Outreach Service and Justice for Cardon will be delivered eventually. And whilst someone sleeping in a tent should not happen in this country, a death on our streets is abhorrent, disgraceful and has no place ever in Worcestershire or beyond.
#HugosEarthquake Press Release: STATEMENT ON HOMELESSNESS REDUCTION BILL, 04 SEPTEMBER 2016 | firstname.lastname@example.org
The Homelessness Reduction Bill is a Private Members’ Bill which was proposed by Bob Blackman MP (Harrow East) on Wednesday 29 June 2016. Although a sitting Conservative Member of Parliament has introduced this Bill, Mr Blackman is not a Government Minister and therefore this Bill is not Government Policy.
In theory, our Campaign supports any move towards reducing homelessness in the United Kingdom, but in reality we know this isn’t an easy issue to combat. Rob Blackman MP’s Bill aims to amend the Housing Act 1996 to make provision about measures for reducing homelessness; and for connected purposes. In essence, this will remove the ‘Priority Need’ test from any homelessness application made in England.
Hugo Sugg, Campaign Founder said:
“It is vital that the Government moves quickly to come up with a strategy to tackle homelessness, however this must come from the relevant Government Department. This Bill is good in theory however doesn’t take into account the huge resources that will drain Local Authorities, charities and organisations when approached by a homeless, or potentially homeless, person or family.
More housing, more support packages and more money will be needed if this Bill goes through. The current system is outdated, however it serves a purpose of sorting out the ones who need housing more than others. If this Bill comes into force, it will mean there is a vacuum where people are accepted as needing help with their homeless situation – however there will not be the resources to cope with this any more than under the current system.
As mentioned in our Response to the Homelessness Inquiry made by the Communities and Local Government Committee, we support the points raised in the Inquiry Report published in August 2016.”
Without Government-backing the resources necessary to meet demand – we don’t support this Bill being made into an Act of Parliament, but instead we would like to work with Government and organisations to help come up with a strategy which can deal with the increasing numbers of homelessness.
Published on 4th September 2016 at 17.20.
If you have any comments, questions or queries about this Press Release, please email our Press Team at email@example.com.
PUBLISHED: 19th August 2016, 14:17 GMT.
Welcome to the official Campaign Response to the Commons’ Communities and Local Government Committee Inquiry into Homelessness 2016 – the first such Government committee inquiry for 11 years. The Campaign did submit a response during the beginning of the Inquiry and have found that, although not quoted in the Report itself, much of our response and concern has been mentioned in the final conclusion.
Firstly, the appreciation from the Committee of homelessness rising in the United Kingdom is positive. #HugosEarthquake also acknowledges this and wants to say that there are a number of factors as to how people become homeless and we all need to act. The Campaign also acknowledges that rough sleeping is the most common form of homelessness which the public see and this presents a ‘soft’ face to a far more entrenched and serious problem in Britain.
The Committee mention how there needs to be better data collected about homelessness figures, and the Campaign fully supports a move towards more robust collection of data through better reporting systems and more frequent ‘counts’ of rough sleepers and the ‘hidden homeless’.
Whilst the Report concludes that one key factor to a rise in youth homelessness (in particular) is because of the shortage of affordable housing, the Campaign would like to add to this by saying that not enough is being done to look at the support networks around the person. We believe that if the number of affordable housing increases, there also needs to be a balanced increase on the tenancy and personal support provided to the individual/s in those properties. With this balanced increase, the Campaign believes that this will sustain the transition between homelessness and independence.
The Report by the Committee acknowledges the importance of compassion and understanding from Local Authorities when they are dealing with people presenting as homeless. Through own experience, and hearing other cases, this is something which the Campaign very much supports. We believe there needs to be a clear level of understanding between staff and the often-complex situations the individual/s are in.
There is a recognition that those who do not meet the criteria to be housed by the Local Authority can be disrespected, and this has been the case too many times. The Campaign recognises that homelessness is not always someone’s fault, even if they are deemed ‘intentionally homeless’ by the Council. The Campaign would like to see a focus shift from finger-pointing to the individual standing in front of the Local Authority, to what issues present and distant past, have led to this situation. The Campaign reflects on homelessness research which states that homeless people tend to have a trauma in early childhood or adolescent years – and this needs to be considered very sensitively.
We agree with the Committee that the Government need to set out guidance about how to deal with people presenting as homeless, in a uniform fashion so no matter which authority you present at, you receive the same response and care. The Campaign also thinks that this needs to go further: The Government need to prioritise homelessness and push it higher up the political agenda. A key principle of #HugosEarthquake’s founder is “to get homelessness into the heart of MP’s, like it’s in the heart of [me]”, and we would like to recommend the general public lobby their MP to help bring this issue to the forefront of Parliament.
#HugosEarthquake has the approach in its philosophy that the issue of homelessness cannot be tackled through Government, funding and organisations alone – but instead with the assistance from the public too. Our ‘Somewhere In Summer’ 2016 Campaign has been focused on how the public can assist and recognise the issue of homelessness, particularly rough sleepers. We fully agree with the Chief Executive of St Mungo’s, Howard Sinclair, when he states in the Report “homelessness is everyone’s issue”. Our Campaign hopes to make this statement a true fact, and support the general public, organisations, Government and the vulnerable/homeless to achieve this.
Talked at length in the report is the many faces and pathways of homelessness and how these are split between personal and societal. Personal being relationship breakdown, addiction, mental health issues etc., whilst societal rests in the economy , levels of income vs. rent/house prices and reliability of income. The Campaign agrees and states that all of these reasons can contribute to the cause of homelessness, and that this therefore means that anyone can be a victim of homelessness, as a result of these factors.
Another aspect to the rise in homelessness recently can be attributed to the fact of the cuts and drastic reforms in welfare/benefit entitlement across all sections of society. The Report states the consequences of these actions which lead to the increasing numbers of homelessness, and the Campaign also supports this notion and wants Government Departments to assess this impact.
The Government position currently is Housing Benefit payment is paid directly to the tenant and then this is expected to be passed onto the landlord or housing association – however the Committee and Campaign agree that this can increase homelessness and the numbers of evictions, based on a possible lack of support or guidance in budgeting and prioritising finances.
Our Campaign believes assessment for a homeless applicant’s ‘vulnerability’ needs to be seriously considered. The current case law guidance states for Local Authorities to assess vulnerability based on comparison with ‘an ordinary street homeless person’. We believe that this is a subjective, non-personal and cruel approach to assessing the need of someone who is in a potentially dire situation. The Campaign is in discussion about how there might be a possibility around this, without a law change: If there was stable rented accommodation – allowing those who are not deemed vulnerable to move further down the list than priority, if they would be willing to house share with others in a similar situation.
The Campaign agrees with the concerns in the Report about the inconsistencies demonstrated by different Local Authorities when it comes to assessing a person’s vulnerability. We believe there needs to be more communication between the applicant and the Local Authority about their assessment, how they assess and what the outcome is likely to be – so as to allow the applicant source alternative housing or support. The Campaign team would be open to assisting Local Authorities or Government about this.
On housing people who are in need outside the boundaries of their Local Authority – the Campaign supports any housing solution to the applicant, however due consideration and understanding must be taken about the impact this will have on the individual/s. There is a long-held discussion about putting ‘vulnerable’ and in priority need applicants in Bed and Breakfast accommodation (within their area) by the Local Authority, and although this is 1. a temporary solution and 2. costly to the Authority and taxpayer, #HugosEarthquake does support this move for single applicants and couples who meet the relevant thresholds.
In the Report, it mentions about the complexities around homelessness and the issues associated like mental health and substance abuse. The Campaign has long recognised that mental health and substance misuse form a major role in the assessment for vulnerability, but also for the individual to access support – or support to access them. We wholly support the increase in raising awareness of mental health and the effects of substance misuse, and will support campaigns for either issue.
As a Campaign, we are fully aware that mental health issues aren’t always acknowledged because they are mostly non-physical and as a response to the Inquiry Report, will be putting mental health (which can include substance misuse issues) as a focus in the Campaign moving forward. In appreciation of the increase of awareness of these issues, the Campaign notes that mental health services aren’t currently fit for demand – and will be looking at ways we can help maximise support to the vulnerable, including looking into volunteers.
In the Report, there is a very worrying section around the vulnerability of homeless women and the link between them getting into unhealthy relationships or illegal activity just for accommodation that night. This issue is rightfully raised and the Campaign has taken note of this. We will ensure that the needs of homeless women are looked at carefully through our work and awareness campaigns and ensure we are able to signpost towards adequate support. Mentioned in the Report – Agenda, an alliance of organisations for Women and Girls at Risk, were a crucial aspect to the Inquiry and as a Campaign we will look at how to work with them.
As set out in our submission to the Inquiry – we fully support the work of a Parliamentary group set up about Homelessness and believe this has been created already. This can only provide a better understanding about the issue of homelessness to all Government Departments, civil servants and Ministers. On connection to the Government tackling the issue of homelessness, the Campaign would like to lend its support for reform of legislation to reduce homelessness and improve services which deal with the homeless however will be waiting until the newly-tabled Homelessness Reduction Bill 2016-17 has been published and make a Campaign response in relation to that document.
#HugosEarthquake therefore concludes that, on the most part, we agree with the findings of the Communities and Local Government Committee Report into Homelessness, and support the work being done by the various organisations and individuals mentioned. Homelessness is everyone’s responsibility, and not enough is being done by Government, Local Authorities and the general public to help tackle this Public Health Issue.
The Campaign has taken some points made in this Inquiry Report which will now form part of the overarching strategy direction for the Campaign and the work we do alone, and in collaboration/partnership.
We would like to thank the Communities and Local Government Committee for accepting our submission and publishing this Report, which can be found here (opens a new window). Any questions or feedback about this Official Campaign Response is welcomed, and can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for reading this Response from #HugosEarthquake. Our official social media Hashtag for this Response is #InquiryResponse.
#HugosEarthquake Campaign – Raising awareness of homelessness and providing better support to the homeless, especially young people.
Today, I pay tribute to MP for Batley and Spen, Jo Cox, who was murdered on the streets of Birstall, West Yorkshire today whilst serving her constituents at an MP Surgery.
She was shot and stabbed by a lone man when she was doing what her job was – serving her community in Public Office. This event has sent shockwaves across the country and has erased political divides for the immediate aftermath – we all stand together and I too send my condolences and best wishes out to her husband and two children.
Democracy in the United Kingdom and the Activist Community have both lost a brave soul today, a woman who campaigned against child poverty and really helped to change national and international policy on this, and other issues throughout her life.
An MP for just over a year – cruelly taken away so soon but whose voice is going to be louder than ever before. Jo Cox leaves a legacy of peace, compassion and love for all to take note of. As an activist myself I know life can be challenging when campaigning and I also know how much love from family matters. This is a time for Jo’s actual family, and political/community family to come together and remember her.
I send best wishes to all affected by her death.
After watching the Queen’s Speech this morning, (and the internet cutting out!) I thought I would write my analysis on it, from a homeless awareness campaign point of view. There were two main announcements which peaked my interest: 1 million homes and mental health.
The Queen mentioned the Government intending to build 1 million more homes and giving better chances in life to people… But what does that really mean?
I take from that, that the Government just think building more homes is the answer to solve the homeless or housing issue… But it’s really not! Homelessness isn’t just about more homes – and arguably, people who lose their accommodation because of trauma, relationship breakdown etc. shouldn’t just be called ‘homeless’ – because a house isn’t the primary problem.
The issue of homelessness needs to be looked in a wider lense if the Government are serious about their commitment to reduce rough sleeping and homelessness. Cuts to support services and badly commissioned and inadequate services have a colossal negative effect on the homeless.
One positive was the proposal to bring in better mental health support for people inside the criminal justice system. Many homeless people either turn to crime when they become homeless, or have lost their accommodation due to crime in the first place. In a report by Homeless Link they found “17.5% of those with mental health issues and 16.7% with alcohol issues would like support but are not receiving it.” (out of 2,590 respondents). Now these aren’t necessarily in the criminal justice system – but does demonstrate the need for the homeless to receive better mental health support.
Mental health is something we all have, and it’s important to recognise the need for support when crisis point hits – however small the crisis. The Government is making steps towards this…
Although the Queen’s Speech on the whole was very thin on the ground and nothing was mentioned about homelessness specifically – I will be watching closely on Government announcements and policy agendas coming out in the next Parliamentary Session.
To feedback on the analysis, please leave a comment below or email me – email@example.com.
The Chancellor, George Osborne, has today set out his UK Budget for 2016, and I watched with a lump in my throat about what he would say about homelessness.
Announced was £115,000,000 to help the homeless and this is how he told the British public: “…because under this government we’re not prepared to let people be left behind, I am also announcing a major new package of support worth over £115 million to support those who are homeless and reduce rough sleeping.”
I do welcome this step towards ‘reducing’ homelessness, however I think there was a major underlying disregard to the subject. Just reducing rough sleeping doesn’t strike me that it is a top priority for the Government, and Osborne spent just 10 seconds of his 1 hour 3 minute Budget statement announcing his plan. Looking at the Budget 2016 Red Book on pg. 42, you can see in a bit more detail a breakdown of this spending and for convenience, I have copied it here:
It looks nice, it looks fairly glossy but what exactly does it mean? The Government want to build 2,000 new units of accommodation across the UK which house the most vulnerable homeless people but where these are is unclear. Because of the way homeless statistics are collected and fudged, I would imagine places like Worcester or Hereford will get a very small, if any, consideration for this plan. Rural areas like the two Shires mentioned don’t tend to have high rates of homelessness compared to urban cities – according to Government but whether this is a true reflection of the real picture, I would suspect not.
Because many homeless support services in Britain are commissioned through Local Authorities, it means that they rely on Councils to have sufficient Central funding to then pass this money onto Third Sector organisations. Local Authorities spending is going to be cut even more over the next 4 years until 2020 which puts housing support services under threat. I know a large number of services working with homeless people in the UK have really struggled since 2010 and the Government’s Austerity Programme came into force, and it has made the support for the homeless become less quality and even less quantity.
“I’m happy with the £115 million for homelessness but we don’t know the details, or where it will be spent yet. Two thousand extra units for homeless people is positive, but they need to realise it’s not just the big cities with this problem. Yes, it’s promising, but budgets say one thing and then do another five minutes later – let’s see.”
With some support of what I said, Leader of the Opposition (Labour) Jeremy Corbyn said the following in his Budget response immediately after Osborne delivered.
“Whilst we welcome the money that will be set aside for homelessness. It is the product of under-investment, under-funding of Local Authorities, not building enough council housing and not regulating the private rented sector that has lead to this crisis. We need to tackle the issue of homelessness by saying that everyone in this society deserves a safe roof over their head”
(Click for video, this is mentioned from 10.21mins)
Whilst I support most of what Corbyn has said except just saying everyone deserves a safe roof doesn’t directly tackle the issue, it just sets the end result. At least he spent slightly more time mentioning this under-discussed issue on Parliament time than George!
A number of key priorities form my Homeless Awareness Campaign, and they are some of the many factors in the homelessness topic. In no particular order, they consist of:
Both Labour and Conservatives today have ignored the web of issues which fall under the homeless umbrella and that justifies even more why my Campaign and those of agencies/organisations in the sector exist and continue to challenge.
My statement in response to the Budget is not as comprehensive as other organisations, however it really sets out why I remain unhappy about the commitments made by politicians in this Parliament on both sides of the House.
Through my Campaign, I call on the Government to instruct Local Authorities look at the empty properties that are in their area and find ways of how to make these habitable for the homeless to stay when they have no other safe haven. This would see less derelict buildings and money actually generated through housing benefit and other financial support accessible for homeless people – but more importantly more independence and stability for those who have for the most, become homeless unexpectedly and remain hidden out of society.
I will continue this utterly vital work alongside and with support from St Paul’s Hostel CEO Jonathan Sutton, MP for Worcester Mr Robin Walker and Strategic Housing Manager of Worcester City Council Nina Warrington to help make the homeless environment in the Worcester area more resourced and better networked so we can support the homeless more. This includes my number one priority for Worcester City and that is establishing a sector-run Homeless Forum, with stakeholders, including service users, sitting on.
Having a Homeless Forum will mean that duplication of housing and homeless services would be less likely to happen, and any gaps in the homeless provision found and filled. The voice of the homeless population also need to form part of this Forum, and working this to be championed by all agencies.
Until we know a comprehensive breakdown of this £115m spending committed for tackling homelessness in Britain, there is only large speculation about where and how it will be spent. I will look very carefully at any news coming out of Government sources around this issue and react accordingly. It is very promising that the DCLG Inquiry into Homelessness is moving quickly and they have accepted the #HugosEarthquake official response to their written evidence and this will hopefully affect the decisions made in the coming weeks and months.
Thank you for reading, and I welcome any comments or feedback about this response.
Published: 16th March 2016 – 22.30 GMT
‘#HugosEarthquake’ is a social media and blog-based Homeless Awareness Campaign mainly related to young people and homelessness. My name is Hugo Sugg and I have experienced homelessness first hand at the age of 18 when an abusive relationship with a partner broke down in 2008 and had to move out. I was housed after three months of living on friend’s sofas and spare beds – sleeping one night on the street and dropping out of education to focus on staying alive. I was eventually housed by a youth organisation called SHYPP (Supported Housing for Young Peoples Project) in Herefordshire.
When I was homeless, I experienced a series of mental, emotional and physical issues including want to commit suicide, losing my hair, losing my social circles, not finishing Further Education and my general wellbeing hitting rock-bottom. Since this happened in 2008/9, I have been working towards getting back on my feet and now at the University of Worcester doing my BA Hons in Youth and Community Work, living in private rented accommodation.
Since November 2015, I have been running a Homelessness Awareness Campaign, mainly to do with Young People who find themselves homeless. Through my experience and homeless narrative I have been able to influence public opinion in the City of Worcester and beyond via a series of blog posts, newspaper articles, TV appearances and backing from my Constituent Conservative MP Mr Robin Walker.
Perceptions of homeless people and homelessness as a wider issue has been challenged in my local area through the power of my confidence in change. The biggest way of evidencing this change of opinion has been when I challenged my Local City Authority, Worcester City Council about comments their Housing Manager made on local radio. On a Wednesday afternoon, the Housing Manager was heard saying “[giving hats and scarfs to rough sleepers on the streets] is supporting people in a lifestyle choice they have made” to which I became very angry as it came days after I stood outside the City Council offices giving a public talk to the people of Worcester in relation to homelessness.
The Council Manager’s stance was heard by myself and thousands others via radio and local newspapers, with uproar and calls for apologies and resignations. After the high profile coverage my Campaign had garnered in the previous weeks – I used the power of this to challenge the Local Authorities comments and call for a public apology. On the Friday afternoon (two days after the original comment), the City Council apologised through a statement on their website, announcement in the local press and returning on the same radio programme it was initially mentioned on – and made a public apology stating her ‘insensitive remarks’. Although I cannot hold all the credit for this landmark apology, I have used it as a buoyancy to enable the ingrained discriminatory cultural views of homelessness to be challenged.
When I saw the opportunity to be able to input into a Government Review into the Causes of Homelessness and the approaches to tackle it – I was very keen to give an official Campaign response using references and personal experiences. Please find below my answers to the different points, detailed under each heading.
Differing causes of homelessness for households, couples and single people.
As many organisations working with the homeless say, people become homeless for a number of reasons and I will be mainly focussing on Young People who find themselves in this horrendous position. The Department of Communities and Local Government in partnership with other agencies have developed a Positive Pathways Model which is being rolled out over Local Authorities across the Country.
In the research carried out to create the Positive Pathway Model – it is recognised Young People become homeless due to:
– Tension with parents/guardians/carers
– Relationship breakdown with partner
– Welfare reform
– Financial Hardship as an individual or within the household
– Conflict with household members about lifestyle choices the Young Person makes
– Substance Misuse and
“By having a positive mind frame, homelessness can turn from being a lifestyle to being just a hurdle in a person’s life”
#HugosEarthquake response to DCLG Committee into the Causes of Homelessness and the approaches taken by National and Local Government to prevent and tackle it.
– Physical, emotional and/or sexual abuse in the ‘family’ home.
These aren’t the only reasons however the most common as per the Department of Communities and Local Government.
It is really important at this point to note that homelessness can happen to anyone and are statistically two wage payments away from crisis. Mediation with the household members can be a crucial way of holding people in the home, however this cannot always be possible. Depaul UK in their 2011 report ‘Homeless prevention, can we afford not to’ states that:
‘The majority of homeless 16-17 year olds owed main homelessness duty experienced some form of trauma during childhood’
‘Relationship breakdown with parents with 41% of those surveyed stating violence was involved in the breakdown’ and
‘57% of homeless Young People surveyed were not engaged in education, employment or training’.
These are very shocking statistics in the grim picture of reasons and causes of homelessness in the United Kingdom. In line with the Coalition/Conservative Majority Governments’ view on Early Help and preventative work, I believe it is imperative that preventative work is prioritised.
Homelessness amongst the young, single, families and couples since 2008 remains to be ever rising, in line with previous statistical increases after a state of Recession and austerity. In addition to the rise of homelessness because of the 2008 national Recession, there have been a number of Welfare Reform Bills passed by the Conservative-led Coalition (2010-2015) and Conservative Majority Government (2015-present) which have impacted on the lives of many in the United Kingdom. These reforms have seen a higher use of Foodbank usage, Sanctioning of Benefit, higher poverty in regions of the Country and homelessness.
According to statistics released in 2015, since 2010 homelessness has increased in the United Kingdom by 37%.
Steps to tackle homelessness
There are many ways to tackle homelessness, with the main one being preventative work. Informing people about the ways they can become homeless is vital in enabling the right information gets to people. However informing people what to do when they become homeless might be counterproductive if done improperly – they might want to become homeless because they know the system.
Another way to tackle this issue, is making housing legislation, especially around homelessness, more accessible and easier to understand. The various steps that a Local Authority have to go through to assess a homeless person need to be made more easily accessible.
Making more, funded and sustainable provision for homeless services is needed especially for young people. A service that I currently work for in a voluntary capacity is under threat of two thirds of their funding reduced by the Local Authority which will desperately effect young people’s survival if made homeless.
It’s not just homeless services that need to take steps to tackle this issue, it’s also health, school, social work, employers, Local Authorities, charities, private sector etc. because anyone can become homeless and for that – everyone should have a duty in stopping or at least reducing homelessness.
The relationship between homelessness and the availability of social housing
The Right to Buy scheme, Spare Room Subsidiary and Housing Benefit changes have altogether made it very difficult for homeless people being able to get housing after crisis and during recovery. Building more homes isn’t simply the answer as there needs to be really strict and watertight legislation and regulation in place. Social Landlords and Housing Associations are in a very difficult place with the Right to Buy scheme enabling tenants to buy their homes, thus making them more ‘secure’ in that area.
If a Right to Buy homeowner wishes to sell the house, they will clearly want money from that and therefore will be searching for buyers in the Private sector of housing and not back to the housing association so vulnerable people can purchase/rent.
There is an established culture around social housing and how negative it seems to say you live in a social housing property, however that needs to be tackled on a societal level and challenge the reasons as to why housing associations and social landlords aren’t bad organisations to be with.
Measures taken by local authorities to deal with the homeless
There needs to be a new way of counting homeless people to get a true figure. Monitoring and recording the number of first-point enquiries into housing advice, doing more frequent checks of places homeless/rough sleepers bed down for a night, treating the homeless like actual people and not a statistic or problem, fully explaining the housing legislation and law around homelessness, tenancies and housing; are all measures Local Authorities can take to improve the situation of the homelessness issue.
Being realistic about the problem is the best way to deal with the problem, and a few homeless people dislike the statutory Authorities because they treat the homeless like a problem rather than a ‘person in need’.
Local Authorities should not be pressured by central Government to reduce homelessness figures to obtain more funding, as this makes the whole topic of homelessness a commodity issue where the Authority has to ‘be the best’. These are real people we’re debating about in this Inquiry – care and consideration needs to be taken into account of that.
Enough pressure is mounted on Local Authorities and it simply isn’t fair that they have to take all the dissatisfaction of housing services from the people that use them. Their commissioned housing organisations need to be in place for longer than (a typical contract length of) 5 years so they can help work with the Local Authority in realising the real issues and problems these people face on a daily basis.
The re-establishment of the cross government Ministerial Working Group on Preventing and Tackling Homelessness
This needs to happen, regardless of the outcome of this Inquiry. By not having this Government-level Working Group, the issue of homelessness will remain under the radar more than it is currently. A Cross-Party makeup of that group, with guests from the field of homelessness/housing and people like myself who have experienced this issue first hand – would really allow for the Working Group to make real change to thousands of lives/families/young people/elderly who live and face these issues every day.
How levels of homelessness are monitored and reported
The P1E data doesn’t seem comprehensive enough for the purposes of tackling homelessness as what is seen on that data is only what has been inputted – which can be limited, altered or changed in some way. Approaching voluntary sector services about their numbers of homeless/enquiries gives a better understanding of the problem that is needing to be tackled.
Legislation around recording of data around homeless people needs to be tightened up with punishments and sanctions made for Local Authorities, statutory and voluntary agencies needing to be made and enforced. With accurate data can we really start tackling this issue and giving it the resources, time and energy needed to be able to reduce homelessness.
The Government need a better and more accurate collection of homeless data and also realise that there are more people who ‘sofa surf’ and become the ‘hidden homeless’ compared to the rough sleepers we see on our streets. These numbers need to be accounted for too as they may have the same number of, or more, issues than their rough sleeping counterparts.
A central system where all agencies who have a stakehold in homeless people’s lives, or people who may become homeless, can communicate and reference will pave the start of turning homelessness from problem solving for many to real help for all.
Well it seems like an age since I last updated this – and it is! Since January, I have been campaigning with Herefordshire SHYPP which was the organisation that housed me all those years ago… They have been threatened with 66% cuts from the Local Authority.
Along with SHYPP young people and staff I have been Campaigning hard, meeting with young people and the proudest achievement – being on ITV Central News!!
We are awaiting to hear what the Council proposal is going to be in light of the Campaign and I will keep you posted.
Another thing I have been doing in the last few weeks has been thinking about where next to take the #HugosEarthquake Campaign. One idea is to offer school talks, homeless awareness workshops and motivational speaking! These are on the back of an email I received from a high school in Ledbury – asking if I could come in and do a talk to Year 10 students about my experiences and also the Campaign I have been running.
I will let you know when this is organised!
In the midst of this, I been running an awareness Campaign in relation to students at the University of Worcester. By offering advice about tenancies and the dangers of rogue student landlords, I have been able to inform students about the dangers of signing any tenancy when it seems too good to be true.
This came about after a meeting with a member of the Accommodation Team at the University, and advised them to bring the Worcester housing website for students forward so to better protect students – and they seemed very keen to listen to this and take it away to think about.
Awareness in Worcester, and especially the University, has been raised about the issue of homelessness – and this is thanks to the media covering more things and also the public reading and talking about this blog/my Campaign.
I really appreciate all the support, and I want to know what YOU would like to see from the Campaign. Please email me on firstname.lastname@example.org or contact me on my Twitter… I’m really open to ideas and comments.
My next blog post will be about my submission to the Department of Communities and Local Government Committee Inquiry into the Causes of Homelessness and how to Tackle it.
Until then, thanks once more!
So the UK Chancellor’s Spending Review is being delivered today and I personally estimate that it will not make me smile with joy when it comes to support for homeless people, especially the young.
The last 8 years has been crippling for homeless people – as the recession hit, homelessness rose then to add in the (debatable) reforms to the youth service, welfare and health and social care. Although the Conservatives’ have been getting this Country back to it’s feet, it has been at the cost of many people’s every day livelihoods.
I can see this Spending Review not making allowances for the continuing difficulties that young homeless people face. I’m pleased that Robin Walker mentioned my Campaign in Parliament last week, but more needs to be done to send the above message into the heart of the politician’s who probably haven’t been, nor will be, homeless.
As I have always said, it’s good to get the country back to it’s feet financially and although I slide towards Labour, I do agree with the idea of getting things back to what it was – although no one can take the socialist out of me!
Over the coming days, I will be following up official analysis of the Spending Review and what it means specifically for the homeless population. But until then, it’s time to up our Campaign game and…