Recently, I took part in a debate in Parliament on the serious problem of rough sleeping. The Government’s own annual street count recently found that rough sleeping has increased by 165% since 2010 with 4,751 people recorded as sleeping rough.
As if these official figures weren’t bad enough, research by the homeless charity Crisis found that the true situation is much worse. Crisis estimates that more than 8,000 people are currently sleeping rough across England and predicts that this number will rise to 15,000 by 2026 if nothing changes.
In my role as Shadow Policing Minister, I’ve been out with the police in Lancashire and Kent and have seen their joint agency approach to tackling homelessness. Such a holistic approach is needed to properly support rough sleepers who often have a range of complex needs and are almost 17 times more likely to have been victims of violence compared with the average person.
Unfortunately, some police forces still use the Vagrancy Act 1824 to criminalise rough sleepers without giving them the support they need and deserve. I’m glad that Labour has committed to repealing this outdated and uncaring law when we’re next in government.
Rather than being criminalised, homeless people need access to properly-funded services and, of course, housing. That’s why a Labour Government would make 8,000 affordable homes available for people with a history of sleeping on the streets as part of a broader plan to end rough sleeping within our first term in office.