Closed petition Require local authorities to have free helplines for the homeless and vulnerable
We are calling for the government to require all local councils across the country to provide FREE helplines for the homeless and vulnerable when in need of urgent support or shelter.
Homelessness, mental illness and poverty are rife across the country.
As we head into a long dark winter during a global pandemic, the UK unemployment rate continues to surge.
In the North East alone, 4 out of 7 local councils are charging up to 40p per minute to access helplines. These costs to some people could be the difference between life and death.
This is unacceptable and unjustified.
Such a simple fix would make a massive difference to the lives of many.
This petition is closed All petitions run for 6 months
This response was given on 17 December 2020
Local authorities have a duty to provide advice and information about homelessness and the prevention of homelessness free of charge. Local authorities are responsible for how the advice is delivered.
Read the response in full
Tackling homelessness and rough sleeping in all its forms is a key priority for this Government. That is why we have committed to end rough sleeping and to fully enforce the Homelessness Reduction Act.
The Homelessness Reduction Act, the most ambitious reform to homelessness legislation in decades, came into force in April 2018. It places duties on local housing authorities to take reasonable steps to try to prevent and relieve a person’s homelessness. For the first time, local authorities and other public bodies must work together to actively prevent homelessness for people at risk. Local authorities must do so irrespective of whether they are a family or single person, the reason they are at risk, or if they have a local connection to the area.
The Act also places a duty on local authorities to provide advice and information about homelessness and the prevention of homelessness, free of charge. This must be available to any person in the district. Although the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has policy responsibility for setting the national framework for housing, including homelessness and rough sleeping in England, local authorities are responsible for deciding how to make this advice available.
Individuals can access help and advice from their local council if they are homeless or at risk of homelessness. Details on how to contact a local authority for homelessness assistance in England and Wales can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/homelessness-help-from-council.
Our recent review of the Homelessness Reduction Act showed that households are receiving help both earlier and for longer, and service has improved, especially for those who would previously have had limited support: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/homelessness-reduction-act-2017-call-for-evidence.
In 2019/20 we have provided £263 million to local authorities to implement the Homelessness Reduction Act and enable them to do more to prevent and relieve homelessness in their areas.
The Homelessness Reduction Act is a critical part of the Government’s commitment to ending rough sleeping and to transforming the lives of some of the most vulnerable in society. This work is backed by significant Government support, with over £700 million being provided to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping this year alone. By September, our ongoing ‘Everyone In’ scheme had successfully supported over 29,000 vulnerable people; with over 10,000 in emergency accommodation and nearly 19,000 provided with settled accommodation or move on support.
The recently announced £15 million Protect Programme and our Winter Support Package, which includes a £10 million Cold Weather Fund and a £2 million Winter Transformation Fund will build on the continuing successes of ‘Everyone In’ and ensure that we protect the most vulnerable from the dangers of Covid-19 over the coming months.
Meanwhile, our Next Steps Accommodation Programme has made available the financial resources needed to help prevent as many of those accommodated during the pandemic as possible from returning to the streets.
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
Recent Parliamentary debates on homelessness, evictions, and the Vagrancy Act
Over the last two weeks, there have been two debates in Parliament which relate to the issues raised by this petition.
Find links to watch each debate, read the transcripts and access other relevant material on the following webpages:
Nickie Aiken MP’s Westminster Hall debate: Repealing and replacing the Vagrancy Act 1824: https://houseofcommons.shorthandstories.com/vagrancy-act-1824/index.html
Lord Bird’s Question for short debate: Evictions resulting from covid-19-induced poverty: https://houseofcommons.shorthandstories.com/covid-19--poverty-and-mass-evictions-/index.html
What are Westminster Hall debates?
Westminster Hall is the second Chamber of the House of Commons. Westminster Hall debates give MPs an opportunity to raise local or national issues and receive a response from a government minister. Any MP can take part in a Westminster Hall debate.
What is a Question for short debate?
Four short debates ('Questions for Short Debate') take place on Thursday every five weeks in Grand Committee of the House of Lords, away from the main Chamber. These debates are an opportunity for members of the House of Lords to discuss important current issues and draw the Government’s attention to concerns. A Government minister or spokesperson responds at the end to the issues raised in the debate.
Please note that these debates are separate from any work the Petitions Committee may do on this petition. For more information on how petitions work, see https://www.parliament.uk/get-involved/sign-a-petition/e-petitions/