Housing reform: getting tough on poor people

BMJ 1996; 312 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.312.7026.262 (Published 03 February 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;312:262
  1. Jim Connelly
  1. Senior lecturer in public health medicine Division of Public Health, Nuffield Institute for Health, Leeds LS2 9PL

    New legislation will further restrict assistance

    The British government has announced its intention to repeal legislation that gives some homeless people the right to permanent housing.1 2 Its proposed new legislation excludes certain groups from receiving help, such as immigrants admitted on the basis that they would have no recourse to public funds. Furthermore, local authorities will not have to secure accommodation for anyone who “already has suitable accommodation … whether within the United Kingdom or elsewhere.”3 The proposed changes have implications for public health and also raise the question of how the state may best help to ensure its citizens have decent housing.

    A letter of general guidance about the proposed changes sent to local authorities last year states that authorities “will be under no duty to secure accommodation for a household if it is satisfied that there is alternative accommodation available within the authority's area that the household could reasonably be expected to occupy.” How “reasonableness” should be interpreted is not clear, but having access to private rented accommodation will probably disqualify applicants from assistance. The central change, however, is in the duration of the duty to help …

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