NBC Conservative Homeless Policy is a Disgrace
There are many things in 21st century UK to be proud of but sadly much of it is overshadowed by those we should be ashamed of amongst which are the fact that over 300,000 people are suffering and have been treated for malnutrition.
Add that to the shameful situation of over 500,000 families having to rely on food banks to put food on the table the vast majority of who are working full-time and yet because of the Coalition Governments economic policies is unable to make ends meet.
The net result of course is the huge 35% increase in the number of homelessness over the past two years.
What is amazing, or perhaps not considering the way the Conservative – Liberal Democrat coalition have attacked the weakest in society, is that they seem surprised by the increase.
Northampton is typical of towns up and down the country that have cut funding for those who through no fault of their own find themselves in the desperate position of being homeless.
In the case of the Northampton Conservatives who ignored warnings from the opposition of what the impact would be of their cut of £100,000 in the budget.
In 2003 all of the political parties on the Borough Council agreed that the issue of homelessness should be apolitical and whatever the political make-up of the Council there would be unanimous support for reducing the length of time families and children are housed in Bed and Breakfast.
The result of the political agreement and commitment was immediate and effective with no families being subjected to having to live in Bed and Breakfast for longer than 6 weeks in the period 2004 until 2011.
In fact in reality it was brought down to being less than 2 weeks in
Bed and Breakfast.
During the same period the policy of addressing the issues leading to homelessness saw a 144% decrease in homeless applications and 43% fall in families accepted as homeless.
Percentages as I have consistently argued are in themselves meaningless, it is only when the percentages are related into real numbers affecting real families that the impact becomes a reality.
When the Northampton Conservatives decided to abandon the consensus on prioritising homelessness they did so in the full knowledge that cuts to funding, especially during a recession, would lead to families effectively being sentenced to live in Bed and Breakfast for longer than 6 weeks.
It was and is a policy that has returned the Council back to the bad old days where the children’s schooling and welfare have been neglected for nothing more than a political dogma which assumes that anyone who becomes homeless is undeserving of help.
In the last year for which we have full data for homelessness in Northampton, 2012 – 2013, the number of families with children who were accepted as being homeless has as expected and predicted increased.
What was shameful, or at least was to everyone except apparently the Northampton Conservative administration, was that for seven months of the year, families were kept in Bed and Breakfast for an average of longer than six weeks.
The four main reasons for homeless acceptances are Loss of Tenancy or Home, Violence/Harassment, Family No Longer Willing to House and Parents No Longer Willing to House.
Perhaps one of the most disturbing is the increase in the number of young people who are finding themselves homeless.
In Northampton in 2012 – 2013 there was 122 16 – 17 year olds and 116 between the ages of 18 and 24 and 1:4 is due to violence or/ and harassment.
Isn’t it bad enough with the physical and psychological effects of being homeless without then subjecting the families and innocent children to months in Bed and Breakfast?
It seems that the Conservatives in Northampton are only too happy to support David
Cameron’s broken promises on homelessness.
“David Cameron promised to tackle homelessness but on his watch it has risen by a third and the number of families with children living in bed and breakfasts is at a 10 year high.”
It was no surprise that at the recent full Council meeting the Conservatives took the opportunity not once but twice to say that they were held in high regard for the way they are addressing the homeless issue.
If the data and performance of Northampton is anything to go by then it must be even worse across most of England.
What is also disgraceful is that the Northampton Conservatives are not only letting vulnerable families and children who have found themselves homeless down but also the Council staff who have and continue to work so hard to help the families.
It doesn’t of course help when the Leader of the Council talks about the staff as being ‘deadwood’, an outrageous bully boy attack on staff who do not have the right of reply and was designed to do nothing more than make it appear he has substance.
All it really did of course was highlight the level of immaturity callousness and lack of understanding of how dedicated and professional staff delivering public services such as homelessness work and their value to society in working with the most vulnerable.
Thankfully the vast majority of people will never face being homeless which makes the Conservative policy of cutting funding and resources disgraceful, but perhaps understandable because those who are homeless are unlikely to vote.
In an age when political parties are it seems determined to concentrate only on their identified ‘core voters’ it is the most vulnerable who are being ignored.
The Northampton Conservatives record on homelessness once again highlights that it is politics they are intent on following.
“If you don’t vote we’re not interested in you” politics of the ‘nasty party’.
Whether the wider public support the Conservatives neglect of homeless families and children is for them to decide.
I believe that the are areas most people would expect, in fact demand that politicians reach a consensus and agreed policy on, homelessness and avoiding putting families in Bed and Breakfast unless in an extreme emergency being one of them.
It was a consensus in Northampton that worked well but as with many other things has been discarded by is the most authoritarian Council that anyone can remember where all decisions are taken by one man in pursuit of his own agenda.
In the meantime the vulnerable suffer and it is to the shame of all of the Conservative Councillors who by their acceptance and silence are complicit in causing families and children suffering.