Government should match our ambition on homelessness

Speaking in the House of Commons this morning on the Homelessness Reduction Bill, Labour's candidate for Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, challenged the Government to match Greater Manchester's ambition on rough sleeping.

The Homelessness Reduction Bill had its Third Reading in the House of Commons this morning and received cross-party support. Burnham travelled to Westminster to speak in the debate and to support the Bill.

Andy Burnham said:

"Across Greater Manchester there are concerns that an increasing number of people can be seen huddling in doorways across the city region. People will not just walk on by; they do not accept that things have to be like this.

"Homelessness and rough sleeping are not inevitable facts of life in 2017. Our society is wealthy enough to ensure that nobody should spend a night without a roof over their head.

"In Greater Manchester there has been a 41% increase in rough-sleeping in the past year across the 10 boroughs. According to local officials, that figure does not reflect the full picture. They believe that at least 300 people across Greater Manchester will spend tonight out on the streets. That is simply unacceptable, and the Government have not set out what they are doing now to help people find warmth and shelter?"

Burnham went on to challenge the Government to match his ambition to eradicate rough-sleeping in Greater Manchester by 2020.

He continued:

"We need more urgency from the Government. 

"What is the Government’s ambition on rough sleeping?

"In Greater Manchester, working with Ivan Lewis and Councillor Beth Knowles, we are committing ourselves to trying to end rough sleeping. If we can do that at our level, the Government should at least do something at their level.

"Will the Government make the same commitment that I have made in Greater Manchester that we should work to eradicate rough sleeping by 2020?"

He concluded by recognising that the Bill is a first step, but that Government cuts to councils, benefits and mental health services are having a direct impact on the numbers of rough-sleepers and homeless.

"This Bill will not reverse the looming cuts to housing benefit which many experts believe will make homelessness and rough sleeping worse. 

"The Bill does nothing to reverse cuts to mental health services that are pushing more people out on to the street. The Bill does nothing to reverse the cuts to social care, which are having the same effect.

"This Bill is a step in the right direction, but I am afraid that that is all it is."