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Rough Sleepers

Volume 226: debated on Wednesday 16 June 1993

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To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what is the outcome of the recent consultation exercise on the next phase of the Government's rough sleepers initiative; and if he will make a statement.

Under the first phase of the rough sleepers initiative, from 1990–91 to 1992–93, the Government provided resources of £96 million to assist people sleeping rough in central London.

Independent research, funded by this Department, into the effectiveness of the rough sleepers initiative, shows that it has been a success. Through the initiative, several thousand people with a history of sleeping rough have been provided with accommodation. The number of people sleeping rough in central London has fallen by more than a half, from estimates of over 1,000 before the initiative began, to around 420 at a count in November 1992.

The Government have made available a further £86 million over the next three financial years, 1993–94 to 1995–96, to continue the rough sleepers initiative in central London. On 18 January 1993 I issued a discussion paper, "The Rough Sleepers Initiative: The Next Three Years". It contained a range of proposals, based on recommendations from the independent research, aiming to ensure closer targeting of resources on central London's street homeless.

Almost 100 organisations responded to the paper. There has been a broad measure of support for the main thrust of our proposals. In the light of those responses, I am today issuing a strategy document that outlines the way forward for the rough sleepers initiative over the next three financial years until 1995–96, to assist our aim to make it unnecessary for people to sleep rough in central London.

We will continue to concentrate on funding permanent accommodation in houses and flats, with outreach work and resettlement support from voluntary organisations, to allow people sleeping rough to make a successful transition to a settled life. To ensure the better targeting of resources we are concentrating help on a limited number of specialist agencies with referral rights into RSI permanent accommodation; making referral agencies responsible for upholding the eligibility criteria; focusing some of the resources on zones, commencing with the Strand, with particular encouragement for consortia to come forward with proposals to reduce significantly the numbers sleeping rough in a specific area; and reducing the number of housing associations to develop permanent move-on accommodation under the initiative. Also, we are aiming to move towards a more contractual relationship with agencies, in the form of grants with tight, clearly-defined objectives. This, along with regular counts of the number of people sleeping rough in central London, will assist the better monitoring of the initiative.

The further £86 million made available for this initiative, and the proposals in the strategy document to target resources more closely on those in need, will ensure that people sleeping rough in central London will continue to be helped to start a new life away from the streets. I am keen that this initiative should make a further significant impact on the problem of people sleeping rough in the capital.

I have arranged for copies of the strategy document to be placed in the Libraries of this House and the other place.