Homeless people face fines of up to £1,000 for sleeping rough in public doorways, under a new asbo-style rule introduced by a London Council.
Homelessness charities have reacted angrily to Hackney Council’s ‘Public Space Protection Order’, which they say “criminalises homelessness”.
The new order bans homeless people from sleeping in public areas and doorways and can be legally enforced through a £100 on the spot fine.
This fine could quickly escalate to as much as £1,000, due to additional court costs. It remains unclear on how the Council will expect destitute homeless people to pay up.
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Good Morning my darlings. I’m feeling a little less emotional about the election result (still angry though) and so I decided to look into what’s to come …
Few people predicted any one party could win outright but now the Conservatives have done just that.
Before today, the party manifestos were seen as starting points for coalition negotiations, but now that the Tories have won a small majority they will be able to implement their pledges.
So what were those pledges and how will they affect you? Let’s take a look…
The Tory manifesto was stuffed full of promises on tax, including raising the personal allowance to £12,500 and increasing the 40% tax threshold to £50,000. The threshold is currently £42,386, which means current higher-rate taxpayers could save a tidy sum.
A key Conservative pledge was on inheritance tax…
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Record numbers of starving people are turning to food banks to help feed themselves and their families, shocking new figures reveal.
More than one million people received three-days worth of emergency food from the charity Trussell Trust in the year 2014/15, compared to more than 900,000 in the previous year.
The figures published by the Trussell Trust, supported by the Faculty of Health and Children’s Society, reveal the unquestionable reality of food poverty in Britain today – and the plight faced by so many families struggling to make ends meet.
A total of 1,084,604 people were given food parcels by the charity in the last year, including 396,997 hungry children – up 19% from 2013/14.
Meanwhile, the total number of food banks launched by Trussell Trust rose by just 5%, quashing claims made by some government ministers that rising food bank use is linked to the increased availability of ‘free food’.
Benefit delays and sanctions remain the largest driver of food bank use, but the figures also suggest that there has been a significant rise in the number of people on low-incomes requiring food aid.
Low-income referrals to Trussell Trust food banks, just one of many charities and organisations supporting the poorest in society, has grown by 20% since 2013/14.
The number of people citing benefit delays and changes as the main reason for turning to food banks has decreased slightly from 48% to 44%.
Referrals due to sickness, homelessness, delayed wages and unemployment have also increased slightly.
According to Trussell Trust, 10,280 tonnes of food were donated by the public last year.
A recent survey of 86 food banks provided greater clarity as to why people are turning to food banks. The main reasons given were low income, delays in benefit payments, sanctions and debt.
Mother of two, Susan says:
“I have an 18 month old son and an eight year old stepson, I work part time as a teacher and my husband has an insecure agency contract.
“There are times when he doesn’t get enough hours of work, and we really struggle to afford food and pay the bills. The food bank meant we could put food on the table.”
Trussell Trust UK food bank director Adrian Curtis said:
“Despite welcome signs of economic recovery, hunger continues to affect significant numbers of men, women and children in the UK today.
“It’s difficult to be sure of the full extent of the problem as Trussell Trust figures don’t include people who are helped by other food charities or those who feel too ashamed to seek help.”
Trussell Trust draws attention to the tragic story of a mum who was skipping meals to feed her children. “There are people out there more desperate than me. I’ve got a sofa to sell before I’ll go to the food bank”, she says.
“It’s a pride thing. You don’t want people to know you’re on benefits.”
Adrian Curtis continues:
“Trussell Trust food banks are increasingly hosting additional services like debt counselling and welfare advice at our food banks, which is helping more people out of crisis.
“The Trussell Trust’s latest figures highlight how vital it is that we all work to prevent and relieve hunger in the UK.
“It’s crucial that we listen to the experiences of people using food banks to truly understand the nature of the problems they face; what people who have gone hungry have to say holds the key to finding the solution”
Marcella, a former dental assistant recovering from a spinal operation, was helped by a food bank and said:
“It’s so hard to pay rent and survive at the moment. I have friends who are working minimum wage jobs who have had to go to food banks.
“People should not just be surviving, they should be able to live and have a life. I was less than surviving when I went to the food bank.
“Going to a food bank was very emotional for me, I felt a bit ashamed at not being able to support myself but they took the pressure off, they gave me advice and helped me to find a support worker.
“The food bank gave me faith that there are people who understand and who you can trust. We need to stop judging people and listen to every individual and understand how they got into the situation.”
Dr John Middleton, Vice President of Faculty of Public Health said:
“The rising number of families and individuals who cannot afford to buy sufficient food is a public health issue that we must not ignore.
“For many people, it is not a question of eating well and eating healthily, it is a question of not being able to afford to eat at all.
“UK poverty is already creating massive health issues for people today, and if we do not tackle the root causes of food poverty now we will see it affecting future generations too.
“The increased burden of managing people’s health will only increase if we do not address the drivers of people to food banks.”
Over 90% of Trussell Trust food banks provide additional services alongside food to help people out of crisis long-term.
Source – Welfare Weekly, 22 Apr 2015
A North-East think-tank is calling on parliamentary candidates to support a series of pledges to tackle the region’s homelessness crisis.
Research by the North East Homelessness Think Tank (NEHTT) has shown that many more people are at risk of homelessness today than at the time of the last general election in 2010, and that the numbers of people falling victim to homelessness are rising.
These trends are particularly worrying because of recent changes to housing and welfare policies and potential plans for further cuts to public spending.
NEHTT, of which Northumbria University is a founding member, is asking candidates to sign up to its charter to support specific action by the next Government.
NEHTT is a regional group comprising academics, researchers and policy officers.
Key partners include Northumbria University, Youth Homeless North East, Homeless Link, Shelter, Barnardo’s, Northern Housing Consortium, Changing Lives, IPPR North, Oasis Aquila Housing and the NE Regional Homelessness Group, as well as independent specialists.
The pledges are:
*Appropriate housing with adequate support services will be provided for vulnerable people making access to sufficient social housing a priority.
*Housing benefit will be retained for under 25s
*It will be compulsory to find settled accommodation for offenders leaving prison or who are homeless within the community.
*All houses in multiple occupation and B&Bs which cater for homeless people will be inspected and must provide good quality facilities.
The statutory definition of homelessness will be improved by ensuring that all forms of homelessness – rough sleeping, those in temporary accommodation and ‘sofa surfers’ – are officially recorded.
“The pledges are based on the knowledge we have, from a wide range of research evidence, about what would make a real difference to address the key issues encountered by many homeless people, and in particular about homelessness amongst single people and under-25s.”
So far, signatories include four Labour candidates and six Green candidates. Further support has also come from two Labour front bench MPs, and two Conservative candidates.
Source – Northern Echo, 10 Apr 2015
A ruling by five judges of the Supreme Court could affect local authorities who attempt to place tenants out of their areas as a result of the government’s £500 per week benefit cap.
Five judges ruled in favour of Titina Nzolameso, a single mother, following a hearing that went against Westminster Council, which sought to move her family from London to accommodation 50 miles away, near Milton Keynes
The Supreme Court this week quashed the local authority’s decision that it had “properly discharged its duty to secure accommodation available for occupation by the appellant”.
Ms Nzolameso is a British citizen who has lived in London for 17 years and her children are settled at schools in Westminster.
She applied for cheaper housing in November 2012 and was offered the alternative accommodation out of the borough in Milton Keynes. After she turned it down, the council said it no longer had…
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A leading homeless charity has warned of a ‘postcode lottery’ in the benefits sanctions regime, exposing a ‘deeply flawed system’.
An independent report reveals how a flawed and punitive benefits sanctions regime is having devastating consequences for homelessness, food poverty and health.
The report – ‘Benefit Sanctions and Homelessness’ – carried out by the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research at Sheffield Hallam University for the homeless charity Crisis, shows wide variations in how benefit sanctions are imposed across the UK.
Evidence was also uncovered into how large numbers of “unfair and inappropriate” sanctions are being dished out against benefit claimants.
Around half of all benefit sanctions which are later appealed are overturned in favor of the claimant. Jobcentres and Work Programme providers admitted to not always understanding how the rules should be applied, with Work Programme sanctions the most likely to be overturned (19%).
Homeless people are being ‘disproportionately affected by sanctions’, the report says. Many homeless people face obstacles and barriers that make it more difficult to meet requirements placed upon them in order to continue receiving benefits, including mental and physical health problems, a history of domestic violence and poor literacy and IT skills.
According to the report, sanctions can increase the risk of homelessness and leave vulnerable adults unable to feed themselves. Affected people are forced to borrow money from family and friends, leading to family problems and arguments.
Sanctions can also make it harder for unemployed people to find work; travel to interviews, purchase suitable clothes and can “de-motivate people from engaging with the system”.
Jon Sparkes, Chief Executive of Crisis, said:
“The Government has assured us that benefit sanctions are only for those who refuse to play by the rules. But evidence is mounting of a punitive and deeply flawed regime.
“Sanctions are cruel and can leave people at severe risk of homelessness – cold, hungry and utterly destitute. At the same time, people who are already homeless can struggle to meet the conditions of the regime. Many are trying to rebuild their lives, and losing the support of benefits can be disastrous.
“This isn’t helping people into work. It’s kicking them when they’re down.
“We want our next Government to commit to an urgent, wide-ranging review looking at the appropriateness and effectiveness of sanctions, especially for people at risk of or experiencing homelessness.”
Report author, Dr Kesia Reeve of Sheffield Hallam University said:
“This evidence review raises serious questions about the appropriateness, effectiveness, and consequences of benefit sanctions, particularly for homeless people.
“The evidence at present is limited, but points clearly to a system that is more punitive than it is supportive and that fails to take into account the barriers homeless people face.
“The scale and magnitude of sanctions is startling, as is the wide variation found across the country.
“Over the coming year we will be building a robust evidence base, so that informed debate can take place about the appropriateness and effectiveness of welfare conditionality and benefit sanctions in the context of homelessness.”
Source – Welfare Weekly, 10 Mar 2015
Rough sleeping has leapt by over 50% across England since the current Government weren’t elected going from 1,768 people in 2010 to an unprecedented 2,181 in 2014. Despite Boris’ claim he would end rough sleeping in the capital by 2012, the number of street homeless people in London has almost doubled from 415 to 742 people between 2010 and 2014.
The first national street count was carried out in 1998 when 1,850 people were estimated to be sleeping rough in the UK according to homelessness charity Crisis. By 2002 it had fallen to 585. Since then it has almost quadrupled and the rise shows no sign of slowing – rough sleeping in London jumped by 37% in…
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North East Christians are calling for an end to “political short-termism” and urge the next Government to take issues like homelessness and food poverty seriously.
A new poll by Church Action on Poverty also reveals practising Christians are frustrated by church leaders’ failure to challenge politicians.
The poll, carried out by ComRes, highlights a deep dissatisfaction with Government among the region’s congregations.
- Eight in ten (82%) Christians would vote for a party with a positive long-term vision for society;
- Nine in ten (90%) think politicians are more interested in short-term political concerns;
- 74% believe churches and church leaders don’t talk enough in public about issues like food poverty, homelessness and tax avoidance;
- Four in five (85%) say that churches and church leaders do not effectively challenge politicians to communicate a long-term positive vision for society.
Minister Simon Lawton, of Newcastle’s Elim Pentecostal Church, said:
“I’m not at all surprised by the results of this survey. I would imagine that most people would agree with its findings.
“I believe people long for a society where compassion, justice and love and respect for your fellow man is central.
“Naturally we all have a part to play in this. The coming election is an opportunity for all of us, especially Christians, to host hustings and interview prospective candidates in order to make an informed decision.
“We can make a difference and we have a responsibility to make our vote count locally.”
The charity Churches Together is now calling on church-goers to challenge the region’s would-be MPs during hustings it will organise in the run-up to the General Election to coincide with its Vision 2020 of the Good Society report.
It comes ahead of Church Action on Poverty Sunday, this weekend as the charity calls for politicians to put forward a vision for a better society and to reject negative campaigning.
Niall Cooper, director of Church Action on Poverty, said:
“As the Bible says ‘Without a vision, the people perish.’
“Christians are crying out for politicians to share a positive long-term vision for society – but politicians and political parties are currently failing to do so.
“But today’s poll is also a challenge to the churches to speak publicly about our own vision of a good society.
“By organising local hustings events, we can challenge those who want to represent us in Parliament to go beyond the usual political short-termism and engage in a positive debate about the kind of society they – and we – want to live in by the year 2020.”
Bob Fyffe, general secretary of Churches Together, added:
“The emphasis church-goers so often want is a shared vision of the Common Good. How do we build long-term sustainable communities where justice and compassion are at the centre of all that we do?
“It is having a vision for those who are on the margins and feel that there is no one there for them.
“How do we build local communities where people of faith and those of no faith can share common values and live in harmony, where everyone has a proper sense of belonging?
“Taking part in the democratic process is of fundamental importance to being a good citizen. The church hustings allow people to come together and make informed decisions which are central to their lives and prosperity.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 13 Feb 2015
Welfare reforms such as the bedroom tax, sanctions and housing benefit cuts are fuelling England’s rapidly worsening homelessness crisis, according to an independent study.
The government’s welfare policies have emerged as the biggest single trigger for homelessness now the economy has recovered, the study says, and they look likely to increase pressure on vulnerable households for at least the next two years.
London has become the centre of homelessness, the study says, as high rents, housing shortages and welfare cuts force poorer people out of the inner city to cheaper neighbourhoods. Those who lose their homes are increasingly rehoused outside the capital.
Jon Sparkes, chief executive of the homelessness charity Crisis, said the report revealed the true scale of homelessness in England. “Rising numbers [are] facing the loss of their home at a time when councils are being forced to cut services. This is a desperate state of affairs.”
Official figures show that homelessness is rising – up by 12,000 in 2013-14 continuing an upward trend since 2009-10 – with rough sleeping also on the increase, and soaring numbers of homeless families in temporary accommodation.
But the study argues that these official figures underplay the scale and complexity of homelessness in England because they do not capture the hundreds of thousands of people in housing crisis who are given informal help by authorities.
Although latest government statistics show 52,000 households were formally recorded as homeless in 2013-14, a total of 280,000 families were given some sort of assistance by authorities because they were at risk of losing their home.
Local authorities are increasingly using informal homelessness relief to keep at-risk families off the streets by providing financial support and debt advice or by mediating with landlords, none of which appears in the headline statistics.
“Taking these actions into account, we see that the number of cases of people facing or at serious risk of homelessness rose sharply last year. Yet this alarming trend has gone largely unnoticed by politicians or the media,” said the study’s lead author, Prof Suzanne Fitzpatrick of Heriot-Watt University.
The Homelessness Monitor 2015, an annual independent audit, is published by Crisis and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.
The housing minister, Kris Hopkins, said the study’s claims were misleading. Local authorities had a wide range of government-backed options available to help prevent homelessness and keep people off the streets, he said.
“This government has increased spending to prevent homelessness and rough sleeping, making over £500m available to local authorities and the voluntary sector,” he said.
Hopkins added that the government had provided Crisis with nearly £14m in funding to help about 10,000 single homeless people find and sustain a home in the private rented sector.
Julia Unwin, chief executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said:
“Homelessness can be catastrophic for those of us who experience it. If we are to prevent a deepening crisis, we must look to secure alternatives to home ownership for those who cannot afford to buy: longer-term, secure accommodation at prices that those on the lowest incomes can afford.”
The study finds:
- Housing benefit caps and shortages of social housing has led to homeless families increasingly being placed in accommodation outside their local area, particularly in London. Out-of-area placements rose by 26% in 2013-14, and account for one in five of all placements.
- Welfare reforms such as the bedroom tax contributed to an 18% rise in repossession actions by social landlords in 2013-14, a trend expected to rise as arrears increase and temporary financial support shrinks.
- Housing benefit cuts played a large part in the third of all cases of homelessness last year caused by landlords ending a private rental tenancy, and made it harder for those who lost their home to be rehoused.
The study says millions of people are “hidden homeless”, including families forced by financial circumstances to live with other families in the same house, and “sofa surfers” who sleep on friends’ floors or sofas because they have nowhere to live.
Official estimates of rough sleeper numbers in England in 2013 were 2,414 – up 37% since 2010. But the study’s estimates based on local data suggest that the true figure could be at least four times that.
Source – The Guardian, 04 Feb 2015
The Coalition’s Lobbying Act has largely succeeded in scaring charities into not speaking out on behalf of vulnerable people in the run up to the election, a report by the Commission on Civil Society and Democratic Engagement has found.
The Lobbying Act obliges charities and other non-governmental organisations to register if they are planning to spend more than £20,000 – including staff time – on campaigning activities during the run up to the election which could possibly influence the way people vote. There is then a strict limit on how much money may be spent.
The rules apply even if the campaigning is entirely non-party political. Where two or more organisations mount a joint campaign they must jointly remain within the cost limits, further limiting how much they can spend.
So, for example, campaigns relating to food banks, homelessness or benefits cuts would all be likely to fall within the terms of the Lobbying Act.
As a result of uncertainty about the law, fear of getting caught up in huge amounts of costly administration and concerns about being targeted by politicians many charities are remaining silent during the election period.
One charity which wished to remain anonymous told the commission:
“We are re-considering our usual manifesto activity leading up to the election.
“Although none of it is intended to be – or has ever been – party political, there is now a risk that certain politicians will try to make examples of anything we do and try to harm us financially or harm our reputation.
“For this reason we have to be careful about what we say. Even though the issues are very serious and we need to be hard-hitting in our communications to all politicians.
“Anything we say is now at risk of being wilfully misinterpreted.”
The Commission on Civil Society has recommended that the Lobbying Act should be repealed.
You can download a copy of Impact of the Lobbying Act on civil society and democratic engagement here.
Source – Benefits & Work, 03 Feb 2015