Today I visited Unity House Hostel, which is run by a homelessness charity in Chippenham. Obviously as a charity they are non political, and had given all the candidates an opportunity to visit, but I was the only one who replied. I had a very interesting hour talking to staff and clients.
A helping hand to those who are going through a chaotic period of their life is vital to get them back on track, and I was really pleased to talk to residents at the hostel, and we covered all sorts of issues, from homelessness, prevention of terrorism, the British constitution, education policy and even whether banning cannabis is effective.
The excellent work that the charity does is vital to support those currently in need, but charities cannot resolves the root causes of homelessness. Government action is required to tackle homelessness is a growing crisis in the UK. Rough sleeping has doubled since 2010, from 1768 in 2010 to 4134 in 2016.
Almost 60000 households were accepted as homeless in “priority need” in 2016, which is an increase of nearly half since the last Labour government.
There are now over 100000 homeless children in temporary accommodation. Locally in Wiltshire shortages of social housing can create real problems for families who lose their homes, as for example, women from children who lose their house – often for reasons that they could not have prevented – may be found a place in a hostel in a different town from where they have networks of family and friends to support them, which can mean they also lose their jobs. The cruel regime of benefit sanctions introduced by the Lib Dem / Conservative coalition and continued by this Conservative government can also lead to people becoming homeless, people can be sanctioned for example just because their bus makes them late for an appointment.
Labour intend, if elected, to develop a new national strategy to tackle rough sleeping as a question of urgency, including 4000 extra homes which are ring fenced for people who have been sleeping rough. Personally, I have acquaintance with the issues through the Threshold charity in Swindon, and if elected I will make a personal commitment to urgently work with the local voluntary sector, and Wiltshire CC, to prioritise local provision.
Labour is committed to building 200000 new homes per year during the next parliament, half of them affordable to rent or buy, and improved tenants rights. These measures will start to reverse the trend.
Published and promoted by Steve Abbott of 71 High Street, Corsham, SN13 0HA on behalf of Andy Newman, 5 Elm Hayes, Corsham, SN13 9JW