The Tories just admitted they don’t know why homelessness is rising. Here’s a reminder

It's got something to do with their eight year campaign of austerity...

Heather Wheeler MP, the Minister with responsibility for homelessness, was asked by the Guardian yesterday why rough sleeping had risen.

And the Tory MP replied… “In truth, I don’t know.”

The number of people rough sleeping has grown in the UK for the past seven consecutive years and now 4,750 people now regularly sleep outside overnight.

Wheeler has promised previously that she would personally resign if she faisl to meet the Conservative manifesto commitment of halving rough sleeping by 2022 and eradicating it by 2027.

If she wants to meet that target she’s going to have to accept the difficult political reality that Tory austerity policies are to blame for this rise in homelessness.

Just a month ago, a member of Wheeler’s own rough sleeping advisory board hit out saying the Tories didn’t recognise the effect austerity cuts were having on the growth in rough sleeping.

Let’s recap how Tory austerity has caused an increase in rough sleeping and homelessness: 

  • Rents have risen whilst housing benefit has been cut; up to 5m households have seen a drop in state support for housing costs over the past three years.
  • And Shelter thinks that 78% of the rise in homelessness over the last six years was due to people being evicted from privately rented homes.
  • The number of Government-funded social rented homes being started each year has fallen from almost 40,000 in 2009/10 to fewer than 1,000 last year – a fall of 98%.

The National Audit Office makes the link explicit: the rise in homelessness is ‘likely to have been driven by welfare reforms’, the watchdog warned last year.

Labour’s Shadow Housing Secretary, John Healey MP commented:

“If Ministers seriously don’t know why rough sleeping has risen then they don’t know how to fix the problem either.

“The truth is the national shame of rising rough sleeping is the direct result of decisions made by Conservative Ministers: cuts to council services and housing benefit, a lack of action to help private renters and a sharp fall in the number of genuinely affordable homes.

Hopefully that gives the Tories a clearer idea of their own role in the rise in rough sleeping…

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