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Bed-and-Breakfast Accommodation

Volume 555: debated on Monday 17 December 2012

5. What assessment he has made of progress by his Department in reducing the number of families with children being housed in bed-and-breakfast accommodation. (133598)

It is unacceptable and illegal to place families with children in bed-and-breakfast accommodation except in an emergency and then for no more than six weeks. Numbers peaked in 2002, with nearly 7,000 families affected, and I am sure the hon. Lady will be delighted to know that the figure is now less than a third of that.

Next week, while the Minister is no doubt opening his Christmas presents—which I am sure he will get—there will be thousands of children in pokey bed and breakfasts with their parents, because they have nowhere else to go. He cited some statistics, and I would like to cite some more. The number of families in this situation has risen from 630 in March 2010 to 2,020 in September this year, a jump of more than 200%. Is the Minister proud of that record, and will he ensure that that number is lower by next Christmas?

The hon. Lady is absolutely right to express concern about those children and those families. That is why this Government are taking action, with £400 million being provided to help councils deal with homelessness and an additional £350 million to help with the changes in welfare. Those measures will help tackle the appalling situation, but it is better under our Government than it was under hers.

Is not part of the difficulty the fact that families who get into debt and cannot pay their rent are deemed to be intentionally homeless? They therefore receive limited help from local authorities and can find it difficult to get other landlords in the private rented sector to offer them accommodation if they have failed to pay their rent to a previous landlord.

My hon. Friend is right to say that debt is very important. That is why some of the £400 million to which I referred is being made available to improve the level of debt assistance that is given to people. My hon. Friend is also right in that we need to ensure that much more privately rented accommodation is available. That is why we were recently able to announce an additional £200 million and £10 billion of loan guarantees to help improve the situation.

20. There are 2,000 households with children in bed and breakfasts, 880 for more than six weeks. There is room at the inn, but no cooking facilities for Christmas, and the price is an increase in housing benefit. What do the Minister’s colleagues in the Department for Work and Pensions say about that? (133617)

The hon. Lady fails to acknowledge the significant reduction in the number of children in those circumstances under this Government. I nevertheless accept it is important that we do everything we possibly can to assist these families. That is why we are taking action with the relevant council and why we are making £390 million available to assist with the changes in welfare benefit, which her Government never did.