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Homelessness Policy in Britain

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This paper reviews the history of homelessness policy in Britain, with special emphasis on the Housing (Homeless Persons) Act 1977. The structural changes in society which made the 1977 Act possible are identified, and the immediate causation of the Act itself is examined in detail. The consensus view that pressure groups played the main part in bringing about the legislative change is criticised, and instead it is argued that the Department of the Environment took the lead from start to finish.

The paper then goes on to argue that the Department of the Environment has retained the initiative in homelessness policy from 1977 up to the present day. Further structural shifts in British society are identified, which have had the cumulative effect of undermining the 1977 Act's main provisions. Specific influences on the Department which have led to its current proposals for legislative change are then outlined, and used to explain the nature and timing of these proposals. Issues of centralisation, depoliticisation and privatisation are argued to be of particular importance in explaining the overall pattern of change.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1994

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