During yesterday’s Prime Minister’s Questions, Labour’s York Central MP Rachael Maskell took the opportunity to challenge Theresa May on the high death rate among the homeless in York. Data released by the Office of National Statistics in December showed that 11 homeless people had died within the City of York Council region last year, five of them on the streets and six in hostels.
Speaking in Parliament, Rachael said: “York has been in shock as we have learned that eleven homeless people in our city died last year. And whilst we know this is an issue across the nation, we know substance misuse services have been cut, we know that social housing has not been built in our city and we know that mental health services are desperately underfunded and understaffed.
“Prime Minister, I don’t want to hear what you have done, because clearly it has failed. I want to know what you’re going to do differently so no homeless person dies this year.”
Among factors contributing to these high numbers, homeless charities have cited the lack of provision for mental health support in the city, with many requiring help having to travel often long distances. A spokesman for one charity said “people with mental health problems feel safer in their own environment, and struggle to go somewhere else for that.”
The death rate among homeless people has risen steadily since the Tories took power in 2010, with only 2013 showing a slight drop. In the last five years, across the country, numbers have risen by 24%.
Mrs May responded to the question by stating that the government would invest £2.3billion in mental health provision. However this ignores the fact that, according to a 2017 study by Labour, mental health funding has dropped by 8% since 2010, a cut in real terms of £598 million year on year, meaning that this “new” funding, if it is eventually delivered, does little to increase provision, but merely plugs a hole made by Tory underfunding in the first place.