Bishop highlights Leicester expertise and calls for more social housing

Speaking at a short debate at the House of Lords' Grand Committee on Thursday (30 March 2023), the Bishop of Leicester called for the Government to increase the social housing stock.

You can read or watch the speech below:

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness (Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe] for securing this debate and bringing to the House’s attention the excellent report ['Housing First' report] by Imogen Blood and the University of York for the National Housing Federation. 

I would like to use this opportunity to highlight the work of one organisation in particular in Leicester which I have had the privilege of working with and highlight some of the points made in the aforementioned report and also in 'Homeful', a report by Professor Jo Richardson at De Montfort University.

For several years, One Roof Leicester operated a night shelter, providing emergency accommodation for those who would otherwise be sleeping rough. Indeed, they were credited as running the first interfaith night shelter in the UK – for three months it rotated between multiple places of worship. They then began to offer supported housing for people experiencing homelessness – and the outcomes have been so positive that they have now moved over fully to that model.

As the Housing First approach suggests, once people have a safe and secure place to call home, they are in a much better position to engage with support services.

But to also help residents navigate the complexity of the various different agencies and services they might need, each One Roof Leicester resident has a key worker who helps them access benefits, housing, employment or training, and health services.

Residents are also supported by local volunteers, who offer befriending and practical help. This means residents feel have a community where they belong as a well as a physical home.

All of this makes it possible for residents to get back on their feet and live independently. Between 2020 and 2022, 32 of One Roof’s residents successfully moved into their own accommodation, and 100% of them have been able to maintain their tenancy.

Those numbers would be higher if it weren’t for, as the National Housing Federation report highlights, the shortage of social housing. 

Years-long waits for council-owned properties, and the impossibly high cost of privately rented accommodation means residents stay with One Roof longer than they need. That, in turn, means people whose lives could be changed by that one-to-one support have to be turned away. Just last Monday, three people looking for a space with One Roof were turned away. It’s clear that the need is great.

We are doing what we can in my diocese – I have the honour of chairing the city’s [Leicester] Homelessness Charter which brings together agencies, charities and businesses with an interest in ending homelessness so they can work together more effectively. A couple of our churches in Leicester are also making plans to build or convert accommodation for people who would otherwise be homeless. 

But there are limits to what the voluntary, charitable and faith sector can do without Government support. 

  • The Government is in a position to increase the social housing stock with capital investment and by ensuring new developments dedicate at least 10% of the stock to affordable housing. By creating a ready supply of housing for people to move from supported accommodation into, that sector can achieve transformational outcomes for more and more people.
  • The Government can also make joined-up working par for the course at local level through strategic use of its funding. The disadvantages and challenges which our most vulnerable citizens face rarely sit neatly within disciplinary silos. So it is vital that housing, justice, health and social care, work together effectively, ideally following a Housing First approach.
  • It is fiscally sensible to invest more into social housing and supported accommodation. The Everybody In campaign of 2020 showed the strides we can take against homelessness when there is the will and the resource. And, I would add, knowing that we can do better for our most vulnerable citizens, it is morally imperative that we do so.


First published on: 30th March 2023
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