Rough sleeping a ‘stain’ on Tory government’s record, says Robert Jenrick

Former Communities Secretary says a “big push” to end homelessness would allow the Conservatives “to hold our heads high”

Homelessness is expected to rise when the government’s axes the £20 uplift to Universal Credit

The sharp rise in rough sleeping is a “stain” on the Tory government’s record, former minister Robert Jenrick has admitted.

The ex-Communities Secretary said the Conservatives can only “hold our heads high” if Boris Johnson cuts rough sleeping to the level when they came to power in 2010.

Speaking at a fringe event at the party’s conference in Manchester, Mr Jenrick, who was responsible for housing before Boris Johnson sacked him in a Cabinet reshuffle, said the Government should get behind a “big push” to end homelessness.

He said: “We should be getting rough sleeping down to at least the levels it was when we came to power in 2010.

“It is a stain on our record as Conservatives that it rose so much, and I would like to think we go into the next general election being able to hold our heads high and say we brought it down again to at least the levels of 2010, potentially lower.”

The Government promised to end rough sleeping “for good” during the 2019 election campaign.

Ex Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick


AFP via Getty Images)

But, at the start of 2021, there were more than double the number of rough sleepers than in 2010 (1,768 vs 4,226). Even during the Covid pandemic, last winter some 2,600 were homeless, despite the Government’s ‘Everyone In’ drive to house anyone still outdoors.

But there are fears rough sleeping is beginning to climb again. According to homelessness charity Crisis, data shows that in London between April and June this year, rough sleeping increased by 25%.

Turning to homelessness – where a person lives in a shelter or temporary accommodation – figures show that from April 2020 – March 2021, 268,560 households experienced or were at risk of homelessness. The figure includes 100,000 children.

Lucy Powell, Labour ’s Shadow Housing Secretary, said Mr Jenrick had “let the cat out of the bag” as she warned axing the £20 uplift to Universal Credit from this month could exacerbate homelessness.

She said: “The Conservatives’ shameful record on homelessness after 11 years in government will be made worse as tax rises on working people and cuts to universal credit alongside the end of the evictions ban push more families onto the streets.

“The government’s Everyone In scheme showed that things can be different but they are squandering that legacy by turfing people out and failing to keep their promise that no one should lose their home as a result of the pandemic. Instead they should redouble efforts to improve lives and life chances.”

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