BASW comments on Home Secretary’s remarks on homelessness
Last week, Home Secretary Suella Braverman said that the UK Government planned to crack down on homelessness in England by confiscating tents, and she described homelessness as a ‘lifestyle choice’.
BASW UK firmly opposes the perspective of the Home Secretary, and once again we urge her to be more considered with her language.
Homelessness and rough sleeping is far from just a lifestyle choice. It is deep rooted in socioeconomic injustice and is a visible indicator of poverty and inadequate services to support people. Homelessness cannot just be tackled by crisis teams, despite the excellent work that they do around the country. Measures to support people need to start from access to early support and a fully resourced social security safety net that prevents people from being homeless in the first place.
The provision of suitable, affordable housing plays a vital role in supporting individuals and families, it is thus of central importance to social work and social workers. Social work looks at the needs of the whole person, and housing is part of meeting those needs. Suitable, affordable housing is crucial to effective support and ensuring everyone can be a participating member of society: for example, in terms of adult social care, care leavers, people with mental health problems or families in need.
A key contributor to homelessness and rough sleeping is a lack of truly affordable housing. In our position statement and recommendations on housing and homelessness, we urge the UK Government to:
- Make a substantial and ongoing investment in social housing
- Make a substantial and ongoing investment in specialist and supported housing
- Undertake a review of those benefits that fuel the housing crisis (such as the bedroom tax and Universal Credit)
Instead of taking the above actions, the Home Secretary has identified the solution to homelessness as taking away tents – often the only item preventing a person dying from cold temperatures – and fining charities and groups that give out tents to people sleeping on the streets.
Making life more difficult for people who are homeless is not the answer. Government should be improving lives, not further entrenching poverty and making it more difficult for people to get by.