From the TUC

A safety net for relocated homeless families?

25 Jul 2012, by Guest in Society & Welfare

Tomorrow the government’s consultation on the suitability of private rented accommodation offered to homeless people closes. Shelter has been campaigning in support of the government’s preferred approach – to specify in regulations that, in deciding whether accommodation is suitable, local authorities must consider if it is located close enough to the household’s previous home to avoid disruption to schooling, employment, medical care, amenities and support.

Currently, when homeless families are offered private rented accommodation, there are no regulations that a council needs to take into account in deciding if it’s in a suitable location. There are guidelines, but if you’re offered a move from one end of the country to another, there’s not much you can do about it. The Localism Act, passed in November 2011, makes it much easier for councils to place homeless people with private landlords anywhere in the country.

Shelter has argued that where people are housed is important. We cited evidence that councils were increasingly offering temporary accommodation miles away from people’s existing schools, employment and support networks. This was confirmed when it emerged that Croydon Council was considering sending people to Hull and Newham Council was looking for homes in Stoke – a story that prompted the Minister to insist that homeless families should not be accommodated miles from their previous home.

It’s very welcome indeed that the draft regulations outline that the preferred approach is to specify in regulations that accommodation should only be regarded as suitable if it is located in an area which doesn’t cause serious disruption to people’s lives, for example:

  • their jobs, because of difficulty traveling to their workplace or potential workplaces
  • the distance from vital family support
  • education, because of difficulty in children getting to their school
  • medical treatment they receive because of distance from existing GPs, clinics or hospitals

This isn’t a lot to ask, but they will make a huge difference to families we help. And at Shelter we know that by finding people a home in the right place you can reduce the chances of them becoming homeless again. We also know that in choosing a home, most people feel that the area is the most important factor for them, and one on which they base a decision.

If you haven’t yet responded to the consultation we urge you to do so. The draft regulations are open to consultation until Thursday, and you can respond via our campaign, it only takes two minutes. Everyone who cares about the well-being of homeless households should support the Government’s intention to include the rules on location in the regulations before councils are allowed to offer short-term lettings to homeless families.

GUEST POST: Deborah Garvie is Senior Policy officer for Shelter, the housing and homelessness charity.