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Volume 594: debated on Thursday 26 March 2015

I would like to update hon. Members on measures that the coalition Government have taken to address homelessness and to reflect on progress made on this important agenda since May 2010.

This progress is framed by today’s publication of the ministerial working group on homelessness’ latest report “Addressing complex needs: Improving services for vulnerable homeless people”. Building on the commitment set out in last week’s Budget, the report affirms our aspiration to improve services and outcomes for homeless adults with complex, multiple needs in the next Parliament and beyond.

This Government’s approach to tackling homelessness has been focused on preventing homelessness, wherever possible, and ensuring those experiencing homelessness have the support they need to get back on their feet. We have invested more than £500 million to ensure that local authorities and voluntary sector partners are able to support vulnerable people. This commitment is confirmed today by £1.9 million of funding which will ensure that valuable voluntary sector organisations can continue to support homeless young people, rough sleepers and those fleeing domestic violence in 2015-16.

Our investment, backed by one of the strongest legislative safety nets in the world, ensures that no family should ever be without a roof over their heads and that vulnerable people facing a housing crisis receive support. Our policies are designed to increase local authority flexibility, test innovative new approaches and provide strategic support to front-line staff to deliver effective services.

For the first time, we prioritised concerted cross-government action to tackle homelessness, bringing together Departments across Whitehall through the ministerial working group on homelessness. Throughout this Parliament, Departments have worked together to co-ordinate action on the issues facing homeless people.

Preventing homelessness

We have maintained investment in local authority homelessness prevention services. Our £400 million has already helped authorities to prevent 730,200 households from becoming homeless since 2010.

Statutory homelessness is lower now than in 26 of the last 30 years, and around half the level it was under the last Administration.

We have also helped equip local authorities and others working on the vital homelessness front line with the skills and tools they need to support vulnerable people. We have:

invested over £2 million in the gold standard programme delivered by the National Practitioner Support Service. The programme is supporting authorities to deliver cost effective and efficient homelessness prevention services;

invested £10 million into the National Homelessness Advice Service to ensure that front-line staff are able to offer the best possible help to vulnerable people facing a wide range of housing issues;

funded umbrella organisation Homeless Link to assist local authorities and the voluntary sector to work together to improve their effectiveness and capacity to tackle rough sleeping and homelessness. Our support will ensure that this work continues into 2015-16;

helped 3,000 households remain in their homes with our £221 million mortgage rescue scheme. This has provided free advice to a further 60,000 in mortgage difficulty; and

funded St Basils, a leading youth homelessness charity, to support councils to implement a specialist youth accommodation pathway model designed to help young people to remain in the family home where it is safe to do so and offer tailored support options for those needing to leave. Our funding will allow St Basils to continue this vital work into 2015-16.

As well as investing in homelessness prevention services, this Government also delivered almost 217,000 affordable homes in England between April 2010 and September 2014. Management information indicates that we have exceeded our target of delivering 170,000 new affordable homes between 2011 and 2015—it is estimated that by 20 March 173,800 homes had been delivered, with more expected. A further £38 billion of public and private investment will help ensure 275,000 new affordable homes are provided between 2015 and 2020. This means over the next Parliament we will build more new affordable homes than during any equivalent period in the last 20 years.

Helping people off the streets

We are committed to ensuring that anyone sleeping rough receives the help they need to move off the streets so that they do not become entrenched into a street lifestyle. We have:

Driven forward the national roll-out of No Second Night Out, the Mayor of London’s approach to ensure that more rough sleepers are found quicker and given the help they need. Supported by the £20 million homelessness transition fund, No Second Night out means that rough sleepers now spend less time on the streets, with 67% of rough sleepers in key areas only spending one night out;

Overhauled rough sleeping statistics, to provide more accurate figures. Our No Second Night Out initiative actively seeks to find the “hidden homeless”; and

Commissioned the pioneering StreetLink website, app and telephone line allowing members of the public to connect rough sleepers with local support services. Since it started in December 2012 StreetLink has made 24,500 rough sleeping referrals to councils to investigate, leading to 10,500 rough sleepers being found and connected with local services of which 2,000 resulted in a specific housing outcome. Our continued support means that StreetLink will continue to operate throughout 2015-16.

The majority of rough sleepers in London are foreign nationals. We also continue to work closely with the Greater London Authority, the Home Office, local authorities and charities to tackle migrant rough sleeping. We want people to be fully aware of the reality of life in the UK before coming to England so they do not end up destitute. Therefore we need to better target and focus homelessness prevention messages in home countries.

We want to ensure that when migrants end up on the streets they are offered help to return home, where appropriate, and that homelessness services can intervene quickly so rough sleeping is not an option. Foreign nationals who do not have a right to live in the UK, or who are not fulfilling the requirements for residence should leave and we will take enforcement action against the minority who do not depart voluntarily, refuse offers of help and continue to sleep rough.

Supporting the recovery from homelessness

Alongside preventing homelessness and stepping in to support people facing a housing crisis, this Government are determined to help vulnerable people to recover and move on with their lives. To help single homeless people to recover we have:

invested £26.5 million over the course of this Parliament to support authorities to improve services for single homeless people. Our recent £8 million help for single homeless funding will support 22,000 people in 168 local authority areas through 34 local authority led projects;

ensured that hostels are genuine places of change which support rough sleepers to recover from homelessness by linking to local services to help them move towards independence. Our £42.5 million homelessness change programme has provided 1,500 new and refurbished bed spaces;

worked with the Department of Health on their recently announced £40 million of capital investment in 2015-16 and 2016-17 to deliver further hostel bed spaces and trial platform for life, a new low rent shared accommodation model for homeless young people. The Greater London Authority is matching this funding with a further £15 million in London; and

invested £13 million in Crisis’ access to the private rented sector programme to help 10,000 vulnerable single homeless find and sustain accommodation by 2016. Since the programme began in 2010,153 projects have helped 9,320 vulnerable people into accommodation with over 90% maintaining tenancies for at least six months.

We have also worked to ensure that support is in place to help statutory homeless households move on with their lives, including;

making legislative changes in the Localism Act 2011 to allow local authorities greater flexibility to move homeless families out of temporary accommodation more quickly into good-quality, suitable and settled accommodation in the private rented sector. Households now spend on average seven months less in temporary accommodation than at the start of 2010;

being clear that the long-term use of bed and breakfast accommodation for families with children is both unacceptable and unlawful;

building on the commitment set out in last week’s Budget, we will also explore options to support long-term investment in private rented accommodation for homeless families. This would help secure well managed, affordable accommodation for homeless families. It will also reduce financial pressures on local authorities by helping them to avoid placing families in expensive accommodation such as bed and breakfast;

providing £10 million to 148 areas across the country to stop the closure of domestic violence refuges, improve services in existing refuges and to grow the number of bed spaces. This will help ensure we maintain the resilient national network of refuges that work to keep victims and their children safe; and

continuing to fund Women’s Aid to run UKRefugesOnline to help those working with victims of domestic abuse find places of safety as quickly as possible.

Championing innovation and new solutions

This Government are committed to harnessing the potential offered by innovative new commissioning and delivery models to drive improved outcomes for homeless people. We have broken new ground by:

investing £5 million in the world’s first homelessness social impact bond to support a group of London’s most entrenched rough sleepers using payment by results and social investment. Funded by my Department and commissioned by the Greater London Authority, 831 persistent rough sleepers have been helped through the programme, with 88% supported away from the streets and a further 263 successfully helped into settled accommodation outside the hostel system. A significant number have been reconnected to accommodation in their home country, and projections for moves into sustained employment have been exceeded. An interim evaluation of the programme suggests that the flexibility of the payment by results contract has allowed the intensive work necessary to turn around the lives of these very vulnerable people in a way that would not have been possible in the constraints of existing service provision; and

building on this approach, we are using payment by results and social investment to help turn around the lives of 1,600 vulnerable young homeless people through the £15 million fair chance fund.

England quite rightly has a strong international reputation for the excellent services provided by our local authorities and the voluntary sector, and for the strong safety net maintained by Government. But we are not complacent. There are still too many people facing homelessness and too many people struggling to access the support they need to move towards independence.

We are determined to maintain this momentum and build on these achievements into the next Parliament and beyond. The publication of today’s ministerial working group on homelessness sets out our aspiration to drive forward improvements for homeless adults with complex, multiple needs.

Although relatively small in number, around 60,000 adults in England face a combination of homelessness, offending and substance misuse problems which lead them to repeatedly use public services in a chaotic, and costly, way and live on the very margins of society. We strongly believe that there should be a life beyond homelessness for these very vulnerable individuals. With the right support to address their needs, many could move towards independence and engage more constructively with public services.

We have today also commissioned new work to explore the root causes of homelessness and examine what more can be done to improve services in the future.

These innovative new funding and commissioning models such as payment by results and social investment offer a real opportunity to break the cycle of homelessness for this group, and we look forward to seeing progress made on this agenda in the next Parliament.