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Homelessness: Social Services

Volume 472: debated on Thursday 21 February 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (1) what measures the Government have introduced to provide services and support for homeless people since 1997; (185503)

(2) what support the Government provide for homeless young people; and if she will make a statement.

Tackling homelessness is a key priority for this Government and we have made major progress, reducing rough sleeping by 73 per cent. since 1998 and ending the long-term use of bed and breakfast accommodation for families with children under the homelessness legislation.

We strengthened the statutory protection through the Homelessness Act 2002, providing one of the strongest statutory safety nets in the world for homeless families with children and vulnerable people. This includes a requirement for local authorities to have a strategy in place for tackling and preventing homelessness and ensuring that accommodation and support is available to people in their district who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

Under the Homelessness (Priority Need for Accommodation) (England) Order 2002, we widened the categories of people who have a priority need for accommodation under the homelessness legislation to include, among others, 16 and 17-year-olds and young people aged 18 to 20 previously in care at any time between the ages of 16 and 18.

Since 2003, we have seen a year on year reduction (over 45 per cent.) in the number of households accepted under the homelessness legislation. The number of households in temporary accommodation is also reducing and local authorities are on course to meet the target of halving the number of households in temporary accommodation to 50,500 by 2010.

We have provided significant investment for homelessness prevention. This includes our recent announcement of £200 million homelessness grant funding for local authorities and the voluntary sector over the next three years. This represents the biggest ever cash injection for homelessness services and demonstrates the commitment that reducing homelessness remains a top priority for this Government.

We have also invested £90 million capital funding in 2005-08, to improve hostels and day centres used by rough sleepers so they can move into education and employment and make the transition from the street to a settled home. A further £70 million capital funding is being made available in 2008-11 to build on the success of improving hostels and day centres.

We fund the National Homelessness Advice Service (NHAS) which is a partnership between Citizens Advice and Shelter, to ensure high quality advice on homelessness prevention through the network of participating Citizens Advice bureaux and other voluntary agencies across England.

The Supporting People Programme launched in 2003 has been helping the most vulnerable in society, including young people and people at risk of homelessness, to live independently by providing accommodation and support to help them make the transition to economic and social independence. Since 2003, we have invested Supporting People funding of over £8.7 billion in local authorities to spend on the areas where they have identified need. To date, around £1.3 billion has been allocated to clients who are either homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.

In November 2006, we announced measures to further prevent and tackle youth homelessness. This includes a commitment that by 2010, no 16 or 17-year-olds should be placed in bed and breakfast accommodation by a local authority under the homelessness legislation, except in an emergency. The number of 16 and 17-year-olds in bed and breakfast accommodation has fallen by almost one-third from September 2006, when there were approximately 1,000 young people in bed and breakfast accommodation, to around 700 young people at the end of June 2007.

We are also working to improve access to homelessness mediation across the country (including family mediation for young people), so that there is a universal expectation of such services and we are promoting the use of supported lodgings schemes and other supported housing provision to ensure appropriate accommodation, advice and support is available for young people who can no longer stay in the family home.