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Housing (Homeless Persons) Act

Volume 959: debated on Wednesday 29 November 1978

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asked the Secretary of State for the Environment when further statistics will be available covering the first year's operation of the Housing (Homeless Persons) Act; and if he will make a statement.

Friday will mark the first anniversary of the Act's coming into force in England and Wales. During this time the Act has proved of real benefit to many unfortunate people and has, I believe, worked well.Following publication of statistics covering the first quarter of 1978, further statistics, based on returns from housing authorities in England for the first half of 1978, are being published today. Copies are being placed in the Library of the House—reference DOE Press Notice 648. Some comparisons with the first six months of 1976 and 1977 are included although we must exercise caution in making comparisons with earlier figures, as the statistical system for recording information on homelessness was modified from 1st December 1977, and the results from this system are not strictly comparable with those for earlier periods. Indeed, the conclusions that can be drawn from the figures for a six-month period are necessarily limited.However, the pattern which continues to emerge under the Act is similar to that suggested by the figures for the first quarter. From January to June 1978 housing authorities secured that accommodation was available for about 26,000 households who were homeless or threatened with homelessness, in comparison with 17,380 and 15,700 for the corresponding periods in 1976 and 1977.The figures show that the majority of adult households accepted had dependent children. However the proportion of households—that is, those without dependent children—being helped continues to increase—28 per cent, in the first half of 1978 compared with 19 per cent, recorded for the first half of 1977. Nearly 80 per cent, of households had been living in the same borough or district a year previously. There has been limited use of the transfer provision; only 4 per cent, of households were the subject of notification to another authority under section 5. At 1,260, the total number of homeless households temporarily occupying bed-and-breakfast accommodation at the end of June 1978 was lower than the 1,520 recorded at the end of June 1976; but the interim use of such accommodation continues to be more marked in London than elsewhere. Local authorities continue to make little use of the provision on intentional homelessness.We shall shortly be reviewing the Act and the code of guidance with the local authority associations and interested voluntary bodies.