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Homelessness (End of Life Care) Bill proposed

Thursday 15 February 2018

A Bill introduced by Liberal Democrate MP Sir Edward Davey, on 7 February under the 10 minute rule motion, aims to offer housing and support for the terminally ill homelessness so they don’t have to die alone on the streets.

Poor health is a massive problem for those living on the streets, which is bourne out by the fact that the average age of death is 47. This compares with a national average of nearly 80 years for men and 83 for women (according to ONS). Homeless people are also four times more likely to be admitted to hospital than those with a home.

Addressing MPs in the Commons, Sir Davey argued that current housing law, states that people have no right to housing if they’re ‘intentionally homeless’ and that a change of law is needed so that this test no longer applies for homeless people who are terminally ill.

In a heartfelt speech, delivered by Sir Davey, MPs were left to ponder quotes provided to him directly from the homeless on their thoughts about the injustice of ending their lives, cold, in pain and on the streets, without a home, care or support.

He said that the Homelessness (End of Life Care) Bill, which is supported by several other MPs including Vince Cable, Karen Buck and Kenneth Clarke, would see services having to work together to help often ‘invisible’ homeless people who are deemed to be at high risk of dying within the next 12 months.

Mr Davey said that terminally ill homeless people should have a basic and automatic legal right to appropriate housing and care, that their GP can trigger and that housing departments, social services and others cannot question.

He was keen to stress that this right would be for ‘appropriate’ housing, so Local Authorities can’t “fob the person off” with B&Bs or other short-term solutions.

He backed his case for the Bill by citing research and accounts from Pathway, St Mungos, Shelter, interviews with the homeless themselves, research from the Care Quality Commission, University College London, and the Facility of Homelessness and Inclusion Health.

What counts as terminally ill?

The change to existing law and practice should be relatively simple, and it would be down to the patient’s doctor to establish if a patient meets the criteria for being terminally ill, by employing best practice already used by the majority of doctors across the UK for all patients.  

A GP would then just need to add a patients name to their palliative care register if the patient is deemed to be at “high risk of dying within the next 12 months”.

Provided that the homeless patient meets this criteria, then that person should have an automatic legal right to appropriate housing, along with an appropriate package of care and support for their needs.

Local Authorities and Social Services would have to get involved, liaising with GPs and other parts of the health service to ensure the right care and support is given.

More than the Bill

Sir Davey was keen to stress that the Bill alone can’t fix the problem and that to reach the goal of good end of life care for the homeless, there will need to be better integration of services, and different types of accommodation on offer including specialist hospices, with trained staff.

He also explained that the Bill would add to the impact that the Homelessness Reduction Act will have, which is aimed at preventing homelessness in the first place and received Royal Assent in 2017, saying that the new bill would help prevent the homeless from dying without a home.

Watch the recorded video on Parliament TV

A draft Bill is not available yet, but it’s expected that it should be available on or around Friday 16 March, which is the date for the second reading in Parliament.