To Britain’s national shame, thousands of people will sleep rough on park benches and shop doorways this winter, writes Sir Kevin Barron MP.
It beggars belief that in 21st century Britain there are parts of the country in which there is little or no shelter for those sleeping on the streets during extreme cold weather.
And that the Government doesn’t even know which areas have this provision.
Since October last year, an estimated 484 people have died while homeless, including during the ‘beast from the east’ cold spell between February and March last year.
Last winter, one in four severe weather services had to turn rough sleepers away.
Rough sleeping has risen every year since 2010 as a direct result of decisions made by Conservative ministers.
And the problem is getting worse.
Under Labour’s plans, funding will be provided for emergency accommodation in every area, for every rough sleeper whenever local temperatures are set to fall below freezing.
The new national offer will be funded through a new Rough Sleepers Cold Weather Fund, set at £100 million in the first year, and paid for by a previously announced second homes levy.
As well as extra emergency shelter, this will also fund keyworkers to link rough sleepers with health and housing support to keep them off the streets for good, given that cold weather enables contact with rough sleepers who are otherwise hard to reach. Labour’s plan will save lives and needs to be put in place now.
I hope everybody had a wonderful Christmas and is looking forward to the new year.