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Government attempts to tackle 'national crisis' of homelessness in England an 'abject failure', report says

Homelessness is a growing problem. Credit: PA

The Government's attempts to tackle the "national crisis" of homelessness in England has been an "abject failure", according to a damning report.

The number of rough sleepers on England's streets has risen to over 9,000, while more than 78,000 households, including 120,000 children, are either homeless or living in temporary accommodation, regularly of a low quality, said the Public Accounts Committee.

Their report stated the Department for Communities and Local Government's attitude to bringing homelessness down has been "unacceptably complacent", and they have lacked urgency to improve the situation.

A Government pledge to eliminate rough sleeping by 2027 will only address the "tip of the iceberg", said MPs, pointing out there was a shortage of realistic housing options for the homeless or those at risk of homelessness.

The problem with homelessness is one that has seen an sharp rise, with the number of people sleeping rough increasing by 134 per cent since 2011. Furthermore, there's been a 60 per cent increase in the number of households in temporary accommodation since 2010.

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Meg Hillier, who chairs the committee, said: "The latest official figures hammer home the shameful state of homelessness in England and the abject failure of the Government's approach to addressing the misery suffered by many thousands of families and individuals.

"As we approach Christmas there are thousands of children in temporary accommodation - a salutary reminder of the human cost of policy failure.

"The Government must do more to understand and measure the real-world costs and causes of homelessness and put in place the joined-up strategy that is so desperately needed.

"That means properly addressing the shortage of realistic housing options for those at risk of homelessness or already in temporary accommodation. More fundamentally, it means getting a grip on the market's failure to provide genuinely affordable homes, both to rent and to buy.

"There are practical steps it can take now - for example, targeting financial support on local authorities with acute shortages of suitable housing, rather than those councils which are simply ready to spend - that would make a real difference to people's lives."

Rough sleepers is on the rise. Credit: AP

A number of recommendations have been made by MPs to the Government, including the need for a plan to be put in place by mid-June 2018 for how homelessness can be reduced.

The Department for Communities and Local Government has finally admitted it's "light touch" approach has failed, said the report.

John Healey, shadow housing secretary, said: "This damning cross-party report shows that the Conservatives have caused the crisis of rapidly rising homelessness but have no plan to fix it.

"This Christmas, the increase in homelessness is visible in almost every town and city in the country, but today's report confirms ministers lack both an understanding of the problem and any urgency in finding solutions.

"After an unprecedented decline in homelessness under Labour, Conservative policy decisions are directly responsible for rising homelessness. You can't help the homelesswithout the homes, and ministers have driven new social rented homes to the lowest level on record."

Lord John Bird, founder of The Big Issue magazine, said: "The people we see sleeping rough and living on our streets represent the mere tip of the iceberg. The fact that the 'hidden homeless' aren't even included in the final figures show the extent of the problem."

John Healey says the Government have caused the crisis. Credit: PA

Official statistics on the subject are "wildly out of touch" as they ignore single homeless households and focus on rough sleepers, one charity said.

A Government spokesman said: "Tackling homelessness is a complex issue with no single solution, but we are determined to help the most vulnerable in society.

"That's why we are providing over £1 billion up to 2020 to reduce all forms ofhomelessness and rough sleeping and we are bringing in the Homelessness Reduction Act, which is the most ambitious reform in decades, to ensure people get support sooner.

"In addition, we have established a Rough Sleeping and Homelessness Reduction Taskforce across Government, with support from experts, so we can respond as effectively as possible."