For media enquiries, contact Jenny Steinitz (press@wilberforcesociety.co.uk).

Think Tank: Give the Homeless Voicemail, Bank Accounts and Healthcare — and Give Them All Homes.

CAMBRIDGE, 16/12/2011

61,000 UK households were “newly homeless” in 2010 and over 1,000 people sleep rough every night. At Christmas donations to homeless charities reach their peak. But as public goodwill subsides so does political will to tackle homelessness — and a long term problem needs long term solutions. The Wilberforce Society, Cambridge University’s student think tank, this December launches ‘Tackling Homelessness’, a set of long-term proposals to break the homelessness traps, to prevent homelessness, and to ensure there are enough homes to go round.

“Ever wondered why people are on the streets when there’s a welfare state to provide for them? The fact is, there isn’t.” says Anna Stansbury, one of the paper’s two authors. Only those considered particularly vulnerable are eligible for emergency housing; the rest are left to fend for themselves. TWS calls for the government to provide emergency housing to all unintentionally homeless people to make sure no-one has to sleep on the streets.

“Access to vital services for the homeless can be near-impossible” says Akshay Phakey, an author of the paper. Getting healthcare often requires transport or meeting residential criteria; getting a job rests on having contact details; saving cash safely requires a bank account. In Tackling Homelessness, TWS proposes innovative solutions:

  • the introduction of specialist mobile health care clinics for the homeless
  • the provision of a PO Box and a voicemail service like Voicemail4All to each homeless person, and
  • the issuing of a homelessness certificate which can prove a homeless person’s identity in order to open a bank account.

In straitened times, a PO Box, Voicemail4All and a homelessness certificate are cheap ways to make a big difference: providing all three to a homeless person for a year would cost about £200.

How to get into housing when you need to pay deposits and rent in advance? The answer, for Akshay Phakey and Anna Stansbury, is simple: local councils should implement Deposit Guarantee Schemes and pay the first month’s housing benefit in advance. And to allay landlords’ concerns about renting to the former homeless, councils should pay housing benefit direct to the landlord, and trial long leases of private housing for the former homeless.

The UK is facing a massive shortage of affordable housing — and unless this is fixed, homelessness will remain a problem. As well as calling for increased funding for construction to boost the dwindling housing stock, TWS proposes 4 ways in which the government can ensure the existing housing stock is used to its capacity, including allowing councils to levy higher rates of council tax on empty homes and second homes, and supporting Rent A Room and Homeshare schemes.

Tackling Homelessness comes at a time when the government is showing determination to tackle homelessness, with the “No Second Night Out” scheme, but when increasing funding is difficult. Many of TWS’ proposals are cheap or free to the government but they provide innovative and real ways to tackle our homelessness crisis in the UK, so in the future no one is left out in the cold at Christmas.

The paper can be found at http://thewilberforcesociety.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/TWS_-_Tackling_Homelessness.pdf, and print copies are available from magcloud, below.

About The Wilberforce Society

The Wilberforce Society, the first student-run think tank to be established in the UK, is the country’s leading student-run think tank. It has no political affiliation, incorporating the wide range of views of students at the University of Cambridge. TWS works to produce practical yet innovative proposals on a wide range of policy areas in two forms: special reports — produced by committees and usually commissioned by MPs or Lords, or as part of a government consultation; and policy papers by individuals and small groups. Previous TWS papers, especially A Special Report on Corporation Tax in Northern Ireland, have received significant media and political attention. More information can be found on the TWS website, thewilberforcesociety.co.uk

Contact details

For more information on the paper Tackling Homelessness, and for general information on The Wilberforce Society or other media enquiries, please contact:

Anna Stansbury, Director for External Affairs

external@wilberforcesociety.co.uk

+44 (0)7906773783

Tackling Homelessness

By The Wilberforce Society in Policy Papers

28 pages, published 16 DEC 2011

Tackling Homelessness proposes a set of 13 policies to reduce the number of people becoming homeless and to make it easier for the homeless to be re-housed. Proposals cover increased provision of services to the homeless, including an expansion of the government’s duty to provide emergency housing, the provision of specialist mobile health care clinics, and the provision of a PO Box and voicemail service to the homeless. Significant reforms to th…

Cambridge University think tank proposes new rights in a UK Bill of Rights

CAMBRIDGE, 16/11/11

The Wilberforce Society (TWS), Cambridge’s student-run think tank, today released a special report in submission to the Commission on a Bill of Rights’ public consultation. The paper proposes that a new Bill of Rights should recognize and legislate for new rights — to Internet access, to education and healthcare, and for victims of crime.

TWS was invited to submit its views to the government’s independent commission. In response, a seven person committee was formed under John Kwan, TWS’s Head of Legal Policy, and worked to produce a substantial 50 page report, which you can read on their website, at http://thewilberforcesociety.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/TWS_-_A_UK_Bill_of_Rights.pdf (print copies available)

The report supports the creation of a UK Bill of Rights to allow the UK to benefit from human rights protection above and beyond the Human Rights Act. In particular, the report recommends the following:

  • Inclusion of rights to healthcare, to education and to Internet access
  • Substantial clarification of the existing rights to privacy and to family life
  • Enhancement of Parliament’s role in promoting protection of social and economic rights.

The report asserts that social and economic rights can be protected without the courts usurping the role of Parliament: it proposes that the government be required to report the steps it has taken to promote such rights, and that it should respond to recommendations and observations by the Joint Committee on Human Rights.

Kwan’s committee further issues a strong endorsement of a right to access to the Internet — both the right not to be arbitrarily disconnected and the right to be provided reasonable opportunity to access the Internet. Additional legislation for victims’ rights is also recommended to enshrine current standards of good practice in police and courtroom proceedings and refute the myth that human rights only protect criminals.

TWS’s last submission to a government consultation — on Corporation Tax in Northern Ireland — attracted substantial media attention from the Northern Irish and British press.

About The Wilberforce Society

The Wilberforce Society, the first established in the UK, is the country’s leading student-run think tank. It has no political affiliation, incorporating the wide range of views of students at the University of Cambridge. TWS works to produce practical yet innovative proposals on a wide range of policy areas in two forms: special reports — produced by committees and usually commissioned by MPs or Lords, or as part of a government consultation; and policy papers by individuals and small groups. More information can be found on the TWS website, thewilberforcesociety.co.uk

Contact details

For more information on the Special Report on a UK Bill of Human Rights, please contact:

John Kwan, Head of Legal Policy
legal-policy@wilberforcesociety.co.uk
+44 (0)7760204420

For general information on The Wilberforce Society, or other media enquiries, please contact:

Justin Kempley, Director for External Affairs
external@wilberforcesociety.co.uk
+44 (0)7890041887

Special Report — A Bill of Rights for the UK

By The Wilberforce Society in Special Reports

52 pages, published 16 NOV 2011

TWS was invited to submit its views to the government’s independent Commission on a Bill of Rights’ public consultation. In response, a seven person committee was formed under John Kwan, TWS’s Head of Legal Policy, and worked to produce a substantial 50 page report. The paper proposes that a new Bill of Rights should recognize and legislate for new rights — to Internet access, to education and healthcare, and for victims of crime.