Monday, January 23, 2012

For the benefit of Iain Duncan-Smith: a definition of homelessness

This morning, on BBC's Breakfast Show, Iain Duncan-Smith was talking about the impact of his proposals on a benefit cap. He suggested that the 'scare stories' were exaggerated, claiming that the Shelter definition of homelessness was unrealistic.

Featured on Liberal Democrat VoiceWhen pressed, he stated that their definition of homelessness includes circumstances where bedrooms are being shared. At this point, Ros noted that he was being less than entirely accurate.

So, I thought that I ought to check. Given that Ros has plenty of knowledge on housing issues, and has held senior office at District and County level, I'd tend to trust her judgement. And here, for the benefit of the Secretary of State, is Shelter's actual definition;

"Homelessness means not having a home - most people who are homeless don't sleep on the street. Even if you have a roof over your head you can still be homeless. This is because you may not have any rights to stay where you live or your home might be unsuitable for you due to severe overcrowding or other reasons."

If I was being extremely generous, I would accept that he may have misinterpreted this. But I'm not. To my mind, most people would see severe overcrowding as being rather more than simply sharing a bedroom.

So, either he is wilfully misrepresenting the facts, or he is ignorant of them. And on that basis, he is unworthy of any faith that Parliamentarians might wish to place in his judgement. And that rather casts doubt on the quality of the legislation he is promoting...

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