Some short-term wins, but Budget fails to address root causes or offer meaningful route to ending homelessness
However, it ultimately provided short-term measures, placing focus firmly on the Autumn Spending Review for the long-term commitments the sector needs.
- Extension of the £20 a week Universal Credit uplift to September 2021.
- Extension of the Job Retention scheme to September 2021.
- Shared Accommodation Rate exemption for care leavers under 25 and under-25s who have spent at least three months in a “homeless hostel” brought forward from 2023 to June 2021.
- £19m additional funding for domestic abuse programmes, including £4 million to trial a network of ‘Respite Rooms’ for homeless women
We warmly welcome the news that the Chancellor has heeded our calls for the Shared Accommodation Rate (SAR) exemption for care leavers and homeless under-25s to be brought forward to June 2021. The latest figures show that 9% of rough sleepers in London are under 25 years old and our Young and Homeless research highlighted how the SAR prevented young people moving on from homelessness. This announcement is a helpful step in the right direction.
In response to demands by Homeless Link and others to maintain the UC uplift of £20 per week, Government has provided a sticking plaster with the announcement of a six-month extension. No additional support has been offered to those on legacy benefits. By pushing the end of the UC uplift to September to coincide with the end of the furlough scheme, Government has simply created a new pinch point for many households at risk of homelessness. The impact of this disappointing short-termism will be felt by the most vulnerable - Government must show its commitment to ‘building back better’ by locking in these crucial supports.
Targeted support for renters was entirely missing from the announcements, as was the much-demanded unfreezing of Local Housing Allowance rates. This failure to look at LHA undermines the short-term UC uplift and is compounded by the conspicuous absence of any measures to alleviate the shortage of affordable homes. In the autumn, 48% of the CEOs of our member organisations cited a lack of available accommodation at LHA rates to already being a main barrier to moving people on from emergency accommodation.
The Budget also offered little in the way of additional funding for homelessness services, with a lone investment of £4 million to trial ‘Respite Rooms’ for homeless women facing severe disadvantage. This represents another disappointing piecemeal and short-term investment, when both domestic abuse and homelessness sectors are calling out for long-term funding that allows the effective sustainment of proven, well-established services.
The SAR exemptions and extension of both the UC uplift and the furlough scheme to September will be hugely welcome and crucial to keeping many in their homes. However, the Budget ultimately disappoints with its failure to address the root causes of homelessness, reliance on short-term solutions and piecemeal investment in services.
With unemployment now expected to peak at 6.5% at the end of the year, Government has created another looming cliff edge for the thousands of households still suffering from the impact of the ongoing pandemic. As a sector, we must now turn our attention to the Autumn Spending Review to make the longer-term gains needed. Homeless Link will continue to work with our members and with Government to tackle the root causes of homelessness, address the continued absence of workable solutions for people with No Recourse to Public Funds and secure long-term investment in our chronically and historically underfunded homelessness services.
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Jennie is a Policy Manager at Homeless Link.