Crisis loans have been withdrawn, but DWP budgeting loans are still available for rent in advance. There is also a range of support available through local authorities, including discretionary housing payments and local welfare provision, and, as I am sure my hon. Friend knows, there is a rent deposit scheme in his constituency administered by Wycombe district council.
I am most grateful to the Minister for his answer. Unfortunately, Wycombe Homeless Connection has stated categorically that the withdrawal of crisis loans has made it much harder for homeless people to get into flats and homes. Will he write to me to tell me exactly what he expects from Wycombe district council, so that we can ensure it is properly guided? May I also point out that I would support the Department restricting certain benefits to the wealthiest pensioners if that would enable homeless people to get off the streets and into homes?
I am sure that my hon. Friend would want us to stick to the terms of the coalition agreement, which commits us to protecting pensioner benefits for the lifetime of this Parliament. However, he is right to say that we have to do right by homeless people, and I welcome the fact that the December quarter’s homeless acceptance figures were down by 5% compared with a year earlier. That covers the period in which the change was made, and there are now about 50,000 homeless acceptances a year, which is about half the level that we saw in the early years of the Labour Government.
Does the Minister find, as I do in my constituency, that when people in his own constituency get into a real crisis, the help that they used to be able to draw down is no longer there and that the community and third sector groups and charities are underfunded?
On the contrary, the money that we were spending on crisis loans and community care grants, amounting to more than £170 million a year, has been devolved in full to local government. The hon. Gentleman should take the matter up with his local authority if is not spending it properly.