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Rough sleeping uncovered?

JANUARY 29, 2020

In a TV programme screened last night, Conservative MP Adam Holloway spent a week sleeping rough in London.  His written report on The Daily Telegraph website gives some insights into what it is like sleeping rough but avoids the causes and ducks the fact that number of rough sleepers are rapidly increasing – up 15% over the last year making a shameful 169% increase since 2010. Paul Kershaw, Branch Secretary of Unite's Housing Branch 1111 has written a blog on the programme which he has kindly shared.

We are pleased that he found “The St Mungo’s staff's good humour is matched only by their compassion and kindness: indeed, when I discharge myself, the centre’s manager follows me into the street and tells me I do not need “to do it on your own”, and that I should come back so that they could help me.”

Sleeping for weeks on a floor

He makes an understandable point when he says “In truth, I was relieved, because potentially sleeping for weeks on a floor in a room where the lights are always on, with 30 other people, was rather less attractive to me than the freedom I had enjoyed at Covent Garden, or around the victims of spice in Victoria.”

Loss of 150,000 social homes since 2012

He does not consider causes of the rise on homelessness such as the huge cuts to spending on social housing (as opposed to misnamed ‘affordable’ housing) pushed through by this government.  Far from working to close the gap there has been a loss 150,000 social homes since 2012.  Disgracefully housing associations have been responsible for the loss of  46,972 homes, mainly due to transferring homes to more expensive tenures. The Chartered Institute of Housing says 79% of the Government’s homes budget up to 2020/21 will go towards private housing, while only 21 per cent will be spent on affordable homes.  If Adam Holloway wants to help he must call for an end to austerity.

As the need for services has increased they have been squeezed.  Our members struggle on declining real pay and worse conditions to provide the best service they can but they are calling for an end to austerity.  The squeezing of pay and conditions is resulting in a serious housing crisis for housing workers themselves.

The insecure private rented sector along with rocketing rents is a further driver of homelessness, we need real rent control now; will Mr Holloway make that call?

Unpaid trial work

The lack of secure decently paid jobs is also worsening the crisis; we need an end to zero hours contracts and a living wage. Some MPs are joining Unite’s call to put an end to unpaid trial work once and for all as a private member’s bill to ban the practice is up for debate in Parliament tomorrow; will Mr Holloway join them?

Front line workers in housing increasingly feel that management is so driven by commercial priorities that organisations that might in the past have stood up to government on behalf of clients are now quietly compliant chasing the latest contract and undercutting each other with scant regard for good practice or the welfare of clients.  Through their union they are determined not to let government off the hook.

See our recent discussion article on the 'right to shelter' here

Paul Kershaw 15 March 2018

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