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News in brief, July 2017

July 05 2017
A round-up of recent stories about homelessness from the UK and further afield

Big Issue for EU Migrants

A Romanian woman who used to sell the Big Issue magazine has received a harsh ruling from a judge meaning she can no longer receive benefits.

The woman registered as self-employed and began selling the magazine about three months after she came to the UK.

Her status as a self-employed worker opened the door to receiving Working Tax Credits, but following a decision by Judge Kate Markus, QC, she is no longer eligible for government support.

The judge decided that the woman's business was 'not viable' as she did not make enough money through it – the woman fell around £100 short of the £157-per-week wage that EU migrants are expected to make.


New service to help 700 people

People sleeping rough in Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes are being offered a new service from 26 June due to a partnership between local councils.

The service will also target people who are at risk of becoming homeless to prevent them from moving onto the streets.

The £623,000funding received will enable the service to run for two years.


Every Little Bit Helps

A Sydney-based charity has caused a stir through encouraging a new way to donate to homeless people in Australia.

People staying in hotels all over the world tend to take a freebie with them as they check out, whether it's a bottle of shower gel, a bar of soap or a miniature toothpaste.

Every Little Bit Helps asks people to donate these often un-used freebies and distributes them among homeless people, and since 2014 has provided over 20,000 kits to individuals in and around Sydney.

Founder of the charity, Katryna Robinson, told ABC News, "We want to fill a void that is there and without our services, what we found is simply [toiletries] weren't being offered."


Contactless donation points

Electronic contactless donation points are now operational across Bristol, allowing passers by to make quick £2 donations to rough sleepers.

Money raised will go to the Safer Off the Streets (SOS) project, which aims to raise £100,000 for four local night shelters run by different homelessness charities.

David Ingerslev of St Mungo's and Rough Sleeping Partnership welcomed the development: "There is nothing else like this in Bristol".


Help Bristol's Homeless

The founder of social enterprise Help Bristol's Homeless has been working with a group of homeless people to construct innovative new homes.

Jasper Thompson is working to convert old shipping containers into fully functioning homes, stating the project helps create a sense of ownership and achievement for everyone involved.

Thompson told the BBC they have "big dreams" to develop the idea.


Single parents win benefits challenge at High Court

A High Court judge has ruled that the countrywide benefits cap is discriminatory towards a group of single parents in London.

The benefits cap currently sits at £20,000 (£23,000 for Londoners), and was deemed insufficient to support four lone-parent families, two of whom had been made homeless due to domestic violence.

According to the BBC, the ruling will enable extra financial help to be offered to the families. They told the courts they were facing a "real misery" from the benefit caps, which can only be avoided by those working more than 16-hours per week.


Homeless surge under Tories

The number of homeless people in the UK has risen by 34 per cent since 2010, when the Conservatives came into power, the Independent reported.

It claimed this could be linked to an enormous 97 per cent decrease in the number of government-funded houses for social rent since 2010.

In 2010–11, more than 36,700 socially-rented homes were built, but 2016-17 this number dropped to just 1,102 new homes.


Housing First shows success

Glasgow is to become the latest in a growing number of cities to show the success of the Housing First approach to homelessness services.

The model has been successful all over the globe, and has been used extensively in the USA and Finland.

Patrick Mckay, of Turning Point Scotland, told the Evening Times the Housing First model has an undeniable success rate. He said: "It might sound really simple but its radical and it says we are going to take people from the street and we are going to give them accommodation."


Chester hostel may close

Labour-lead Cheshire West and Chester Council is proposing the closure of Richmond Court in Boughton.

The proposal is a direct reversal of the previous Tory council's decision to centralise homelessness services into a big 46-bed facility at Richmond Court, which is thought of by many as a magnet for trouble.

The council plans to divide services into smaller, more spread out accommodation units across the area, with extra emergency beds.

New benefits laws in Scotland

The Social Security Bill will give ministers powers over 11 benefits which were devolved to Scottish control under the Scotland Act 2016.

The new laws will include the increase of the carer's allowance from summer 2018, and increased start-up grant and funder expense assistance from summer 2019.

Citizens Advice Scotland social security spokesman Rob Gowans told the Daily Record: “While full details of the new system are still to be decided, there is much to be welcomed in today’s Bill.”


Hawaii doctors could prescribe houses to homeless

A groundbreaking new proposal in Hawaii is suggesting that doctors should be able to prescribe housing to homeless people. Instead of providing long-term medical treatment to rough sleepers, the new bill would prescribe them a home – the ultimate cure to poor health.

State senator Josh Green told the Guardian: “We’re [currently] just paying for it in the most inefficient, expensive way possible.”


Atos Healthcare changes name

The company which carried out the controversial work capability assessments for the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) have changed their name to Independent Assessment Services (IAS).

The company, based in France, carried out assessments that lead to many disabled Scots wrongfully losing their benefits.

The £500 million Atos contract was cancelled after years of controversy, but the newly named IAS company is set to start a new five-year contract with the DWP worth over £700million.