It was a relief last week to have our view at BHT Sussex confirmed that not only did the previous Home Secretary’s views on why people sleep in tents on the street not represent those of the general public, neither did they resonate even within her own Party.
This week saw a move away from the internal struggles of the Government to the all-important Autumn Statement with implications as always for individuals, organisations and society at large.
The Chancellor has four pillars to his economic approach: Enterprise, Education, Employment and Everywhere.
These are key areas for the wide range of work we undertake at BHT Sussex; we have projects that provide housing whilst supporting people back into work; we have an employment and learning arm that sets up six monthly work placements into businesses and charities including our own; we provide employment for over 350 people. Measures in the budget to support all this are welcomed, though we are still working hard to change the rules to make it easier for people to get back into work through our Make work pay for Everyone campaign which was not addressed.
However, the Government’s aim to eliminate rough sleeping by 2024 would appear a long way from being achieved. A reduction in supply in the private rented sector has caused rents to rise above inflation and directly led to some local authorities being on the brink of bankruptcy, as they struggle to house the growing numbers of people facing homelessness. We welcome the decision to unfreeze Local Housing Allowance which will help those on lower incomes to access the private rented sector, but are disappointed that rates will be frozen again from 2025.
We are also disappointed that the Chancellor missed the opportunity to release the remaining £3.8bn of the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund, which assists Housing Associations to improve the energy efficiency of their residents’ homes.
The much-touted headroom from increased tax revenues could have been deployed to invest in all our futures by providing decent, affordable housing, one of the basic cornerstones of life, to enable people to thrive and become full members of society. Fundamentally, significant investment in social housing is still needed in order to tackle the housing crisis. The Government needs to focus its energies on the causes of fellow citizens living in tents not the symptoms.
This would appear a missed opportunity to stimulate the economy and tackle some of the fundamental issues facing our people and economy at present.