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Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

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£164m package for people in temporary accommodation

May 20 2009
Communities Secretary unveils package to reduce numbers in B&Bs It would seem that the government, like the general public, tend to have a little more sympathy for those facing a night on the streets as the weather gets a little colder. This November, Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly unveiled a £164m package to address the problems faced by those in temporary accommodation and their families. Plans include the establishment of a national network of supported lodging, with the money going into training staff and providing mediation services between young homeless people and their families. The main aim is to get young people out of bed-and-breakfast style accommodation, and in fact have them 'lodge' in the spare rooms of trained volunteers, who will be reimbursed for food and housing costs. This measure is based upon the fact that 25 per cent of people without permanent accommodation are in that situation because of relationship breakdown; marriage in the case of older people, parents with the young. The Labour government claims to have already reduced Britain's homeless figures by two-thirds, and to have made "real progress" in what they call the "scandal" of families living in bed-and-breakfast accommodation for long periods of time. It is hoped that these measures will tackle the roots of the problems that drive people out of their own homes. Ms Kelly said: "While a great deal has been achieved, there is no room for complacency. More than 90,000 households are living in temporary accommodation without the security of a settled home." John Bird, outspoken managing director of the Big Issue told Radio 4's Today programme that British parents should be taught to bring up their families properly. However, Big Issue Foundation worker, Emily Holdsworth, who runs the magazine distribution office in Bournemouth, said the package was a positive step. "The mediation for families would be good, providing it was followed through and done professionally," she said. "Training and advice for young people can only be positive, providing they accept it." For Ms Holdsworth, prevention was the key to lowering homelessness. She suggested education through schools and youth groups as an ideal way to break taboos, as teenagers and young adults were the most vulnerable, and it would be relatively cheap to reach them. But such a large-scale problem is complex, and other charities have been critical of the government's suggestions to throw the money at young people, an area they deemed "the new face of homelessness". Following Ms Kelly's announcement, Crisis released a statement suggesting that attention should also be paid the single people who face these challenges alone. "While we accept the urgent need to tackle youth homelessness and to support homeless families, the plight of single homeless people must not be ignored," said a Crisis spokesperson. "Single homeless adults still do not have the right to access housing and the services they urgently need. There are 400,000 such hidden homeless, unaccounted for and effectively warehoused in temporary accommodation, their lives put on hold." It was the legislation that 'discriminates' against people making progress, by not permitting them to register with a GP, open a bank account, and therefore find permanent work, that Crisis cited as most integral for making change. It would be easy to be critical of any financial project as simply throwing money at a bigger problem, but with this project the government seems to have taken a closer look at preventative and educational measures to reduce the number of people in temporary, or even no accommodation in the UK. Time and cooperation will judge the package's effectiveness.