An umbrella body for homeless charities has warned that welfare reform plans have the potential to increase the number of homeless people.
A new Whitehall initiative to tackle homelessness was launched today by DCLG. Housing minister Grant Shapps said councils should adopt a 10-point plan to tackle homelessness.
The report 'Making Every Contact Count' recommends local authorities take steps such as provide a homelessness prevention service and adopt the No Second Night Out model of rough sleeping prevention, or a local alternative.
Mr Shapps said: "For many people, becoming homeless is not the beginning of their problems; it comes at the end of a long line of crises, a long line of interactions with public and voluntary sector services, a long line of missed opportunities. We must change that."
Rick Henderson, Chief Executive of Homeless Link, the umbrella body for homeless charities, said:
“Homeless numbers have risen sharply in recent years and the evidence suggests that, in many cases, this could have been prevented. All too often those who end up sofa surfing, living in squats or on the streets asked for help before they became homeless.
“The vision behind this report - that homeless is everyone’s business – is welcomed, as is the ambition that we should all expect the best possible help if we find ourselves threatened with homelessness.
“However, with the potential for welfare reform to further fuel homeless numbers and funding cuts to the very services that help homeless people, this report lacks detail on how this ambition will be achieved in practice.
“To prevent homelessness we all need to play our part and provide the best help possible. But, we also need Government to ensure that welfare reform does not add to homelessness numbers and councils to protect the very services that are critical to preventing homelessness.”
Homeless Link recommendations said that police, probation health, social care and other services should understand the numbers of homeless people they deal with and commission services that are able to meet their needs.
It also called for a Government commitment to respond quickly should welfare reform lead to an increase in homelessness, a mechanism to hold organisations to account if they don’t provide a good services.
Homeless Link also said that political commitment, both nationally and locally, is needed to protect services that are critical to preventing homelessness.