Government accused of ignoring crisis as rough sleeper numbers surge in London

"The government’s shameful legacy of damaging welfare cuts continues to contribute to this avoidable crisis."

The number of rough sleepers in the capital has risen by nearly a fifth in the past year, according new Greater London Authority data.

8,855 rough sleepers were recorded by outreach workers on London’s streets between April 2018 and March 2019, marking an increase of 18% on the previous year.

The information comes from the Combined Homelessness and Information Network (CHAIN), a multi-agency database recording information about rough sleepers and the wider street population in London. It represents the UK’s most detailed and comprehensive source of information about rough sleeping.

Labour’s London Assembly Housing Spokesperson, Tom Copley AM, said:

“It is tragic to see the number of rough sleepers on our streets on the rise again.

“The reasons why homelessness, including rough sleeping, has been rising since 2010 are not a mystery. The Government’s shameful and catastrophic legacy of damaging welfare cuts and reforms, steep underfunding of local authorities and failure to properly invest in social housing, all continue to contribute to this avoidable crisis.

“We also need to see a lot more support given to non-UK nationals, often forced into homelessness through unresolved and complex immigration issues.

“While the Government ignore the real and obvious reasons why we’ve seen rising poverty and inequality blighting our communities, City Hall is taking stringent action to help the most vulnerable Londoners by doubling its rough sleeping budget and the size of its outreach team.

“With the right political will, we can turn this dire situation around. Alongside reconsidering some of its most punitive policies, the Government must urgently allocate the adequate funding needed by the Mayor and local authorities to put an end to rough sleeping in the capital”.

It comes as campaigners including the Liberal Democrats and the charity Crisis urge the Government to repeal the Vagrancy Act, which criminalises rough sleepers.

Layla Moran, MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, held a debate in the House of Commons in January on her campaign to repeal the Vagrancy Act. Ms Moran also introduced a Bill to repeal it in February 2018.

A new Crisis report says that the Act “does not tackle the problems people have, and there is evidence that it can also push people further from the help they need.”

Nearly 600 rough sleepers are estimated to have died on the UK’s streets in 2017 alone.

See also: “Revealed: How Help to Buy has stuffed the pockets of housing giants

Josiah Mortimer is Editor of Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter.

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7 Responses to “Government accused of ignoring crisis as rough sleeper numbers surge in London”

  1. Alison

    Of course the Vagrancy Act should be repealed – but in the meantime councils and the police can choose not to use it – because the Act itself doesn’t criminalise people does it?
    That aside of course the government should do more – and the actions of the 2010-2015 coalition government which exacerbated the problem should be reversed. Bedroom Tax & Benefit Cuts anyone? Still – just so long as you’ve got the money for a plastic bag eh?

  2. Dave Roberts

    Personally I think squatting should be de-criminalised as it was the ultimate solution to homelessness. It was legal from 1381 until 2011 and got through with Labour support. Disgusting! There are thousands of empty homes in London and elsewhere in the country that could be used to house homeless people but don’t expect Corbyn and co to anything about them except talk.

  3. Dave Roberts

    And while I’m on the subject! A Deputy Mayor of London, or some rubbish like that, Sophie Linden when a Hackney councillor, campaigned to make rough sleeping a crime. This is what Labour has come to. Do an article about her Josiah but I’m not holding my breath.

  4. Chester Draws

    The figures I have seen do indeed show a surge in rough sleepers.

    But it isn’t because of “the government’s shameful legacy of damaging welfare cuts”. It’s because a lot of Central Europeans are coming over. The increase is not in UK citizens — follow the link in the paper above and you will see that they remain steady. The government’s welfare policy isn’t forcing Romanians to come over without adequate money or employment prospects.

    It’s one of the reasons that people support Leave — they don’t particularly want immigrants sleeping on UK streets.

  5. Dave Roberts

    Chester Draws.
    Nice name! Yes, my experience is that many of those sleeping rough in London certainly are from Eastern Europe. They make up a disproportionately high percentage of those on the streets.

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