Recognising hidden homelessness

MQT on 2017-12-14
Session date: 
December 14, 2017
Question By: 
Siân Berry
City Hall Greens
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


How will your draft Housing Strategy and London Plan help to recognise and tackle the issue of hidden homelessness in London?


Answer for Recognising hidden homelessness

Answer for Recognising hidden homelessness

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Can I thank you for your question.  Hidden homelessness affects thousands of Londoners.  My draft London Housing Strategy, the first ever to contain a chapter dedicated to homelessness, recognises that homelessness has many forms, including the hidden homeless, and outlines a range of policies that will help Londoners facing different forms of homelessness; for example, investment in new specialist accommodation for young people who are in education, employment or training but are at risk of homelessness; my work with boroughs so that they can offer better accommodation options to households who do become homeless; and my new pan-London services for rough sleepers, such as the Night Transport Outreach Team that will help more people off the streets.


While I am doing all that I can to help those facing or experiencing homelessness, any short- or long-term solution to homelessness - including hidden homelessness - needs the Government to act, too.  The Assembly’s Housing Committee’s report recognises this fact with many of the recommendations focusing on changes the Government needs to make.


In addition to your recommendations, I would also emphasise three key areas that my draft Housing Strategy and draft London Plan refer to where long-term Government support is needed to help those who are hidden homeless.  First, the Government needs to reconsider the welfare changes that we know are fuelling rising levels of homelessness in London.


Second, the Government needs to work with us to fundamentally rethink the private rented sector.  The ending of tenancies in this sector is now the single greatest cause of homelessness in London.


Third and above all, we need the Government to invest more in the delivery of new homes.  Many forms of homelessness are first and foremost the result of London’s shortage of affordable homes.  The need to tackle that shortage sits at the heart of both my draft Housing Strategy and my draft London Plan, which set ambitious targets for the delivery of new and affordable homes.


Sian Berry AM:  Thank you, Mr Mayor.  Thank you for acknowledging the report the Housing Committee did.  Possibly the most shocking fact in it is the estimate that there are 13 times more Londoners on any one night who are hidden and homeless than you find on the streets.  That means that they are homeless but may not be getting any support at all from the authorities and they are not in the statistics that we record.


Our report shows very clearly that there are many Londoners who are out there on the brink of becoming homeless and a lot of other Londoners are being very good and looking after them and putting them up.  We need to acknowledge the fact that many people are looking after their friends and their family who are homeless and, really, they should be getting help from the councils and from the Government, as you say.


There was not much mention of specific hidden homelessness measures in your Housing Strategy.  There were a couple of things that are recommendations to you within the recommendations from the Committee and so I wanted to ask you about those.


One thing we also found is that only one in five young people who were facing homelessness even approached the local authority for help.  Local authorities are going to have to give them more help soon.  Recommendations 3 and 6 in the report both ask you to do more to get better information and advice to people in this position.  Recommendation 6 asks you to promote the use of existing homelessness advice and support and to put guidance for those who may be at risk of homelessness on the website.  Can I ask you if you will do that?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  On recommendation 6, both the local authority and voluntary sector services, as you know, are under considerable pressure at the moment.  Most have seen sharp reductions in their funding and local authority services are preparing for major changes in their legal duties.  We have to be a bit cautious about promoting advice services when they are already overwhelmed and will not be able to help.


The position is different in relation to rough sleeping. I commission pan-London services to help this group off the streets, and so I will be publicising the help available to rough sleepers over the Christmas period using both the website and advertising space on the public transport network.


Sian Berry AM:  Excellent.  That is most of my next question.  You mentioned in your introduction to your answer the TfL teams that you have out now, trying to find people who are using night buses and Tubes as places to sleep and may not be picked up as rough sleepers.  We asked you to use TfL advertising space to inform people who might be hidden homeless where they can access relevant services, something like Centrepoint’s helpline, which is specifically aimed at young people.  Would you be prepared to do that, then, to give over some of the space that is advertising the Hopper fare, maybe, to this?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  I am making an announcement on this tomorrow.


Sian Berry AM:  Thank you very much.  Finally, you mentioned the Government needing to do more.  We have a lot of councils out there struggling in advance of the Homelessness Reduction Act to find the funding that they think they will need to deal with this next April [2018].  The Act gives them more duties towards people at risk and the Government has given them new - what they call - ‘additional burdens funding’ to help them temporarily, but I personally do not think this is anything like enough.


I have been looking at the reports from Camden Council, where I am a councillor, and they have recently estimated additional costs of up to £2 million a year while the Government’s funding for them is £878,000 spread over three years.


London Councils is doing work on this, but it would help a lot if the Mayor was to take strong action to lobby the Government to help councils more.  Will you do this?  Will you use your voice to call for this funding?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Absolutely, and thank you for raising this.  The bad news is that the Chancellor in his budget announced pilots for three parts of the country not including London.  You will be aware from your personal experience that there is a huge crisis in London as well, but of course I will use my role to work with London Councils to lobby the Government.  It is devastating that this Christmas again there will be people sleeping rough who otherwise should not be.  You can rest assured I will be doing that.


Sian Berry AM:  Thank you very much.