Policy and evidence – the homelessness episode part II

Last weekend the Observer ran with the story on welfare reform and homelessness. A senior civil servant at CLG had written to the Prime Minister warning that the Government’s proposed welfare reforms could result in – among other negative consequences – 40,000 additional homeless households (as I discussed here). This raised questions about a Government willing to ignore its own evidence and the accuracy or otherwise of Ministerial statements to Parliament. Subsequently Grant Shapps has dismissed the 40,000 figure because it was based upon “out of date” information and didn’t relate to current government policy. He also announced a £20m fund for integrating homelessness prevention services, rolling out a model that has worked in London to the rest of the country.

A passage in yesterday’s blog by the Guardian HousingNetwork Editor caught my eye: Read more of this post


Policy, evidence and dogma – the homelessness episode

A leaked memo from Communities & Local Government exposed in today’s Observer has already generated considerable comment. The memo, written by a senior civil servant at the start of the year, sets out perfectly clearly not only that the Government’s welfare reforms ran the risk of making an additional 40,000 households homeless and reduce the number of new homes constructed, but also that – taking these knock-on effects into account – the “reforms” won’t save any money. On the contrary, they are likely to impose an increased burden on the public purse.

A lot of attention has focused upon the former point. It raises important questions about whether David Cameron misled Parliament in statements about the downside risks of the policy. The memo suggests that statements may have been made in Parliament that contradicted the best available evidence and advice to Ministers. The memo also gives some indication of what sort of costs the Prime Minister considers worth paying to drive this policy through. There is a callousness there that many will no doubt find extremely distasteful.

It has been asserted today that Mr Pickles has distanced himself from the memo and is fully behind the Government’s welfare reform agenda. I’d expect nothing less. Or more.

The suspicion of Government hypocrisy is bad enough, but I think it is the second component of the memo is more revealing. Read more of this post

The housing policy jigsaw – identifying the pieces

[Originally posted on Liberal Democrat Voice, 29/12/10]

Yesterday, I suggested that it would be valuable to piece together the housing policy jigsaw in order to reflect on the picture that emerges. Policy in this field speaks directly to our fundamental values -freedom, equality and community – and how they are to be reconciled. My aim today is to identify more fully the key pieces of the current policy jigsaw.

So what can we make of the way policy towards housing is developing?

The key proposals on social housing reform in the Local Decisions consultation paper were heavily trailed. Many are embodied in the Localism Bill. They have been discussed in a number of posts here at Liberal Democrat Voice (for example, here and here) and beyond. The proposals are being pushed towards the statute book with what appears unseemly haste (as I discuss further here). Read more of this post

Sign of the times

If you have a blog then you’ve probably got access to a host of usage statistics for your site, information on links to and from your blog, and the search terms that people used to lead them to your words of wisdom.

I’ve just noticed that someone found their way to this blog today by entering the following search terms:

losing home waiting for social security

That brought me up short. It was truly affecting. A clear sign of the times.

One can only speculate on the combination of circumstances, the concatenation of events, that placed someone in such a precarious position. And on the absence of accessible local help that led someone to search the web for assistance on such a serious matter.

I may well write about housing and housing policy – as I have recently here and here – but I feel distinctly inadequate in being completely unable to offer anything sensible to assist someone with such a pressing and enormously important problem. Read more of this post

A fairer future or no future for social housing?

We’ve now had a few days to come to terms with the content of Local Decisions: a fairer future for social housing, the Coalition government’s consultation paper (CP) on social housing reform. The response has varied from the broadly positive to the outright condemnatory. In prefacing his comments on the CP last week Dave over at Nearly Legal was moved to invoke the term “cataclysmic”. He’s a chap with a good grasp of these matters. So I have been reflecting on whether I’d assess the proposals in similarly vivid terms.

Underpinning the need for reform, from the Coalition’s perspective, is a perception that there is unprecedented demand for social housing and those who currently benefit from access to it are not necessarily those who most “need” it. Waiting lists for social housing have increased dramatically over the last decade to close to 2 million and there are many thousands of tenants living in overcrowded accommodation. Yet at the same time there are hundreds of thousands of tenants “under-occupying” social housing properties – living in properties with more bedrooms than they are deemed to “need”. So the Coalition argues that something has to change to realise more fully the potential of this national asset. Read more of this post

Disposing of that pesky homelessness problem

[Originally posted on Liberal Democrat Voice, 11/11/10]

It was entirely predictable. The opening moves in a game that could see another hard-won component of the welfare state undermined have now been played.

It may have been predictable, but it is no less distasteful for all that. Read more of this post