Let’s help the homeless

Today I woke up with nervous anticipation. It is one of the most horrible feelings in the world where you wake up wanting something so much but knowing it is out of your hands and dependent on others. But why was today so important? Was it my birthday? (no – that’s the 14th Nov!) So why?

Well today marked the 2nd reading of the Homeless Reduction Bill and I am absolutely thrilled that it passed through the Commons. Now I fully understand that this doesn’t mean that it is law yet and that the bill then has to go through public bill committee, report stage, third reading and then the Lords but alongside the Government’s commitment to support it on Monday then hopefully given today’s result it will get the backing it needs. 80 MPs (it was good to see Rebecca Harris amongst them) turned up today and supported the Bill because this Bill is needed. This doesn’t mean that homelessness will be vanished forever but this bill does go some way to readdress some of the inequality which is currently enshrined in our law. I am delighted that the lobbying of thousands (including myself, who wrote to all of the MPs) has meant that people can see the importance of this Bill. Indeed the all party Communities and Local Government Select Committee commented this was the `greatest opportunity to significantly reduce homelessness in over 40 years`

What does the Bill say?

The Bill is quite a complicated piece of legislation and so to summarise it in a sentence or two is hard but it will give councils a legal duty to give people meaningful support to resolve their homelessness. It will introduce measures to prevent people becoming homeless in the first place.

It means that people will no longer turned up to a council and be turned away as someone who is not a priority. It will hopefully encourage people to turn to the council for help. An example of this issue is that HARP say that they helped 1100 people last year but only 239 people made an official application for homelessness. This means that a lot of people were deterred from applying to the council. Here is a very typical story of what happens and a story i hear time and time again. I spoke to someone who works in a well known charity who said that their team manager used to work at an Essex council until recently in the housing department and they used to deliberately try to put people off applying as homeless as not only did it improve their figures but that they also could count it as a case of homelessness prevented even if the person walked out with no solutions. This is so wrong.

It will also mean that councils will have longer to carry out the checks needed and find a solution as the definition of those who are threatened with homelessness as it will change from 28 days to 56 days.  I spoke to a councillor at Southend council who said that there was an automatic assumption in Southend that anyone who applied was on the fiddle.  Hopefully given extra time this assumption will fade.

It also means every council has to agree a personalised housing plan which will mean that people will know what the next steps are and have them written down. As an ex teacher I know the value of individual education plans and so welcome this particularly.

Amongst other things it also means that councils will have to give a Section 184 to those who formally apply which explains the decision the council has made. As http://www.eden.gov.uk/housing/homelessness-and-housing-advice/homelessness-reviews/ says `If you have approached us for homelessness help under Part VII of theHousing Act 1996 (as amended by Homelessness Act 2002), the homeless legislation, by law we must write to tell you about our decision. This is known as a ‘Section 184 Notification’.  Now in Southend as mentioned 239 people made formal applications but only 131 Section 184s were issued. That means in 45% of the cases section 184s were not issued. This is not acceptable.

These are some of the reasons why I think the Bill will impact the number of homeless in Southend. I was pleased to see that Marcus Jones had also promised that the Bill will be fully funded by new money.

In Southend, in the past week we have had 2 rough sleepers stabbed and there has been another 2 stabbings and someone was beaten over their head with a crutch in areas which are very well known to be places where rough sleepers hang out. They are extremely vulnerable. We need to look after the rough sleepers and living in a society where homeless are turned away is not acceptable. As i said on the phone to the Echo and here the best way to protect the rough sleepers is for them not to be on the streets in the first place. We all have roofs over our heads which on the whole (I accept in cases of domestic violence etc that this doesn’t apply) means a place of security and safety. For the first time in 40 years our MPs have taken huge steps forwards to affording these rights to those who have fallen on hard times.

James Duddridge’s response to the Homeless reduction Bill

Dear Resident,
Thank you for contacting me regarding the Homelessness Reduction Bill.

Every person sleeping rough is a tragedy and I am glad that the Government is working hard to reduce homelessness. Homelessness acceptances are now less than half of what they were during their peak in 2003-04 under the previous Labour Government.

Councils have a duty to provide advice on homelessness to anyone seeking help and they will take steps to prevent homelessness wherever possible. Since 2010, councils have prevented over 1 million households from becoming homeless and the Government is now protecting homelessness prevention for councils. This will total £315 million by 2020. It has also increased central funding to tackle homelessness to £139 million over the next four years. This includes targeted funding for rough sleeping.

I have been assured by my ministerial colleagues that the Government is considering a broad range of options, including legislation, to prevent more people from becoming homeless. The report by the Crisis Expert Panel, to which St Mungo’s contributed, has been welcomed by the Government. It provides a valuable insight into how aspects of the current legislation in England can be updated in light of the models adopted in Scotland and Wales.

The Homelessness Reduction Bill, introduced by my colleague Bob Blackman, has not yet been published but I look forward to examining the contents of the Bill in due course.

I am committed to tackling homelessness and I am glad that this is an issue which the Government is taking seriously. In the last parliament over £500 million was provided to councils and charities to tackle homelessness and central Government funding is now increasing to reduce homelessness further. I welcome the Communities and Local Government Select Committee report and I am determined that we should act to prevent homelessness as far as possible. As you mention, the Government is considering a range of option such as legislation to tackle this issue and I will consider the contents of the Bill once it has been published.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.

Yours sincerely
cid:image001.jpg@01D20392.7D26F7A0
James Duddridge MP
 

How can rough sleepers best be protected?

This was a question put to me by reporters from the Echo today. They were ringing me in connection with the fact that 2 rough sleepers have been stabbed in the past 4 days here in Southend. (2 very good blog posts on the subject can be found here –  a very well written piece – and here) I explained that as a Street Pastor I had witnessed rough sleepers being punched, kicked, verbally attacked, urinated on whilst they were sleeping, been human trafficked, stabbed and even one Autumn where someone was going round giving out bottles of poisoned water to the rough sleepers.  They are in a very vulnerable position and need our protection.

I  was asked today at church if the Winter night shelters would open early to get them off the street to which i said they are unlikely to be in a viable state at the moment and that the night shelters are only a temporary measure to get rough sleepers through the coldest months and shouldn’t be seen as a long term solution.

The Echo reporter suggested the police could look after them but if you ask the police, they are doing that already and Operation Zest and moving them on from the High Street is for their safety ( no comment – ed). But they are stretched and have limited resources.

I pressed home the fact that the easiest way to protect rough sleepers is to make sure they aren’t out on the streets in the first place. we all have houses which for the whole bring security and shelter not afforded to those on the street and so we need to be doing more to ensure that people arent on the street in the first place.

Bearing that in mind I was thrilled that the government today announced their backing of the Homeless reduction Bill ( details of the Bill can be found at http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2016-17/homelessnessreduction.html) Friday is a key date with the 2nd reading of the Bill. We need 100 MPs to attend and as you can see from the responses i have recieved and am aware of, we are still about 5 short.

One (though not the only thing) thing we can do is pray. I have emailed a lot of the church prayer chains this morning in order to pray for protection but also that the Bill passes through on Friday.

Keep our homeless friends in your thoughts in this trying period.

Prevention is better than cure

 

Homelessness   – what images does this word bring up in your mind? What do you associate with this term?  For many people there will be a range of emotions and thoughts from `no one deserves to be living on the street on this day and age` to `a lot of people choose to live on the street and so there is no helping them`. These were responses at my workplace when they heard about my work with the homeless and no doubt are very common. Please leave your views in the comment section below.

In October (Friday 28th) MPs have an opportunity to change the situation for thousands of homeless people across the country. Bob Blackman (Con MP) has put forward a private members bill or the Homelessness Reduction Bill This has support from MPs from all parties and backing from the Communities and Local goverment department and also Crisis who have launched the #Nooneturnedaway campaign. Next year marks the 40th anniversary of the last major piece of homelessness legislation(there was one in 1996 but it didnt have as big an impact as the 1977 Housing (Homeless Person) bill) which was also a private members bill. Indeed the Commons CLG report claimed this `Bill is the best opportunity since 1977 to reduce homelessness`.

The Homelessness Reduction Bill has been written to make help more accessible and to have fewer people turned away. Bob Blackman MP says `At the moment there is no early intervention and too many people are turned away.  For many local authorities it is just a tick box activity and this bill will ensure that there is a statutory requirement to give help and advice BEFORE people are homeless. Hopefully this will prevent people from becoming homeless in the first place.`   This bill will change the definition of those threatened with homelessness from 28 days to 56 days which will give councils more time to work with people to find the best solution and amongst other things will ensure that everyone has a personal housing plan in place which will make things so much clearer for those applying. It will also require councils to issue more Section 184 notices which explains the authorities decisions in writing as to why they were accepted/rejected and what their next steps will be. This will remove some of the anxiety and muddiness amongst the current procedure. More details can be found here

This bill is due for its second reading and is so important in the world of homelessness. Unfortunately unless 100 MPs are present then it may not make it past it 2nd reading. So far 53 MPs have agreed to attend and so I am asking that you write to your local MP(a template from Crisis is here) and ask them if they will be attending. Please let me know at lovingtheleastthelastandthelost@hotmail.co.uk their answer even if it is a No. I am writing to my local MP and will publish his response on this blog.

List of MPs that have so far said yes they will attend*

Bob Blackman (author of the Bill)     Conservative

Karen Thewliss (co sponsoring the Bill)   SNP

Diane Abbott                                    Labour

Debbie Abrams                                Labour

Lucy Allan                                          Conservative

Heidi Alexander                              Labour

Jon Ashworth                                    Labour

Steve Baker                                       Conservative

Hilary Benn                                      Labour

Clive Betts                                         Labour

James berry                                       Conservative

Thomas Brake                                  Lib Dem

Lyn Brown                                         Labour

Richard Benyon                               Conservative

Karen Buck                                        Labour    

Richard Burden                                Labour

Dawn Butler                                      Labour

David Burrowes                                Conservative

Ruth Cadbury                                    Labour

Alex Chalk                                          Conservative

Geoffrey Clifton Brown                 Conservative

Neil Coyle                                           Labour

Jon Cryer                                            Labour

Nick Dakin                                         Labour

Thangam Debbonaire                    Labour

Michele Donelan                              Conservative

Peter Dowd                                        Labour

Jack Dromey                                      Labour

Flick Drummond                              Conservative

Maria Eagle                                        Labour

Tim Farron                                         Lib Dem

Jim Fitzpatrick                                  Labour

Colleen Fletcher                               Labour

Kevin Foster                                      Conservative

Vicky Foxcroft                                  Labour

Richard Fuller                                   Conservative

Gill Furniss                                         Labour

Roger Godsiff                                    Labour

Zac Goldsmith                                  Conservative

Louise Haigh                                     Labour

Rebecca Harris                                 Conservative

Harriet Harman                               Labour

Helen Hayes                                      Labour

Sue Hayman                                      Labour

Kate Hoey                                           Labour

Susan Elan Jones                             Labour

Helen Jones                                       Labour

Marcus Jones                                     Conservative

Julian Knight                                     Conservative

Peter Kyle                                           Labour

Ian Lavery                                          Labour

Ivan Lewis                                          Labour

Caroline Lucas                                   Green

Tania Mathias                                   Conservative

David Mackintosh                            Conservative

Khalid mahmood                              Labour

Shabana Mahmood                          Labour

Steve McCabe                                    Labour

Kerry McCarthy                                Labour

Siobhan Mcdonagh                          Labour

Seema Malholtra                              Labour

Paul Monaghan                                 SNP

Graham Morris                                  Labour

Melanie Onn                                      Labour

Kate Osamer                                      Labour

Jess Philips                                         Labour

Teresa Pearce                                    Labour

Matt Pennycook                               Labour

Toby Perkins                                      Labour     

Steven Pound                                    Labour

Mark Prisk                                          Conservative

Will Quince                                         Conservative

Steve Reed                                          Labour

Jon Reynolds                                      Labour

Geoffrey Robertson                         Labour

Mary Robinson                                  Conservative

Tulip Sadiq                                          Labour

Paul Scully                                          Conservative

Jim Shannon                                      DUP

Barry Sheerman                               Labour

Andy Slaughter                                 Labour

Royston smith                                   Conservative

Owen Smith                                       Labour

Andrew Smith                                   Labour

Keir Starmer                                      Labour

Mark Tami                                          Labour

Stephen Timms                                 Labour

Owen Thompson                               SNP

Michael Tomlinson                           Conservative

Andrew Turner

Karl Turner                                         Labour

Stephen Twigg                                   Labour

Chuka Umunna                                 Labour

Robin Walker                                     Conservative

Catherine West                                 Labour

David Winnick                                   Labour

Mike Wood                                          Conservative

William Wragg                                   Conservative

101 so far

 John Cruddas, Sir Gerald Kaufman and Sarah Champion (all Labour)  will possibly be attending

MPs who wont be attending*

Sharon Hodgson                               Labour

Stewart Jackson                               Conservatives

Bob Stewart                                       Conservative

Ben Bradshaw                                    Labour

Desmond Swayne                           Conservative

Ranil Jayavardena                          Conservative

Tom Hayes                                         Conservative

Maria Caulfield                                 Conservative (she did say she would vote for the bill in the Commons though)

Luciana Berger                                 Labour

Cat Smith                                           Labour

Johnny Mercer                                  Conservative

Ben Wallace                                       Conservative

John Hayes                                         Conservative

Graham Stuart                                  Conservative

Gordon Henderson                          Conservative

Alex Cunningham                           Labour  (he said he would support the bill though)

Kirsty Blackman                              SNP (as homelessness is a devolved issue)

Frank Field                                        Labour (he did say he has asked to be named as a supporter)

David Amess                                     Conservative

Sarah Ellman                                    Labour (she did comment how she supports Crisis and recognises the importance of this issue but that Friday is the only day she can see constituents)

24 including the three possible attendees.

MPs who responded but didnt say either way about their attendance

James Duddridge               (MY MP)     

Ben Howlett

Caroline Ansell

Theresa Villiers

David T C Davies

Jacob Rees Mogg

Andrew Turner

Alok Sharma

Victoria Prentis

Sam Gyimah

Adam Afriyie

Angela Eagle (she has said she will be following the bill closely)

Martyn Day

14 in total

* this list will be amended when MPs and more info arises.

This means that there over 450 MPs who havent yet responded!!

 

 

 

 

How do you vote for yours?

There are a whole raft of elections this week and one of the most interesting discussions i have had recently on my wall is asking how do people pick who to vote for (i do need to get out more – ed).

I always assumed it was a party vs candidate choice where some people voted by party and some by the standard of candidate and indeed for a lot of people this is the case. However there are other ways that people choose which i have listed below (these are either from my facebook post or things people have told me on the doorstep)

I will only vote for those who i either speak to or I have a leaflet from. This is a common comment and makes sense as this is the only way you get to know candidates. I know many people who are voting in the local election but not the PCC elections as they have heard nothing from any of the candidates.

I wont vote for anyone who knocks on my door and unlikely to vote for anyone who delivers a leaflet. Admittedly an unusual response but the person who said this, said they would rather vote for someone who was getting on with the job rather than self promoting.

i will vote for whoever my husband tells me to. Still a common response on the doorstep and something which is thankfully dying out. I did knock on one door this year where this role was reversed and the wife was the one who chose who they were voting for.

I will vote for whoever my parents tell me to.  I was told that one resident didnt know who he was voting as he always pops round the corner to his mums and asks his parents who to vote for, the day before the election.

I vote for the first name on the ballot paper. A common idea and is the reason we get candidates desperate to be top as in the case of ABC who stood for a number of years in St Lukes.

We have a family discussion, weigh up the pros and cons of each candidate and then decide. I actually like the sound of getting together of the family and doing this. It sounds like a good healthy debate could be had over each candidate.

i will vote for the best looking person. Shallow but i have known people to choose this way and it is sad for democracy when this happens.

I wont vote at all. Sadly a common response on the doorstep. A lot of it is said in a sheepish way and they say it is because they dont really understand it all, they dont know enough about the candidates or they dont trust politicians in  general.  One of the pleasing things about doing the survey this year is that it means in a small way the non voters have engaged with the political process and hopefully they will carry on doing so. I am pleased that many non voters have said that this time round they will vote for me for the first time as they believe in my passion and the reasons i am standing.

All of these are reasons people do/do not vote and it is really fascinating how people use their democratic right to vote. I want to leave you with a final story and thought.

One of the strangest things happened to me on the doorstep yesterday where i had to choose one of my opponents to vote for, i was carrying out my doorstep survey and the resident said i really like you, you have a great personality and passion but i can never vote for Conservatives as i vote party over person. However if you tell me who you would vote for over independent or Labour then i will vote for that party! I, of course chose the Labour party and so she is now going to vote for them! It is the first time that has happened before!!

Looking at the above i think the only conclusion that can be drawn is that a politician will never win! They just have to go out on the doorstep and get their message across in a clear and honest manner and then wait for the electorate to decide whether they want them or not. Whoever or however you decide to vote, I would urge you to go out this Thursday and vote!

Elections 2016 (1)

I am sure that there will be many blogs on this subject and the first thing I should say is that I am now officially a candidate for St Lukes having got the confirmation through the post today.

I will come back to that later and leaving aside St Lukes, I was thinking of an echo article a week ago which was talking about 3 interesting seats that they thought was important. I must say I found their choices odd and for me (not including st lukes) here are my 3 interesting battles (well 5)

SHOEBURY

With 2 adversaries in Mike Assenheim and Anne Chalk standing, it will be interesting to see what the outcome of this animosity is – will it allow Sue Abrahams to sneak up through the middle? An interesting battle.

MILTON

On paper an easy win for Julian Ware Lane, he is the sitting councillor, and used to be out regularly meeting the residents but recently he seems to have stopped working quite as hard and with the ward voting Conservative last year will it repeat the same this year, certainly my partner has only heard from the Conservative candidate and has only received one letter again from the Conservative candidate.

BLENHEIM PARK

This is one ward where I am torn as to what i think/want to happen. With Graham Longley stepping down, it has opened this one right up. As great a campaigner as Jill Allen King and also Roger Weaver are, I think that this will go down to the Conservative candidate and Matt Dent. Obviously my party loyalties are with the Conservative candidate but my heart wants Matt to win as I have a tremendous amount of respect for him and our views actually are not a million miles apart.

PRITTLEWELL

A ward I know well after helping Meg campaign in the past 2 years.  I hope David Garston wins here although i think he has big feet to step into in terms of the personal vote that Meg has! The sitting councillor is of course a cabinet member.

KURSAAL

This might seem a strange choice and if you asked me last year then i would have said Anne Jones would have walked it but I think she will walk Westborough. Because she can’t work with the other Labour councillor she has moved on leaving 2 first time candidates. Normally i would plump for the Labour candidate but i have done a few canvas sessions for Simon Gittus and he is being well received.

 

As I say some very interesting battles ahead and i suspect the outlook of the council will be very different on May 6th.