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Homelessness and Rough Sleeping

Volume 597: debated on Monday 29 June 2015

7. What assessment he has made of the reasons for changes in the level of homelessness and rough sleeping since 2010. (900602)

We have invested more than £500 million since 2010 to support local authorities and the voluntary sector to prevent and tackle homelessness and rough sleeping. That investment has meant that we have not returned to the days of 10 years ago, when statutory homelessness in England was nearly double what it is today.

I thank the Minister for that response, but Government figures released just last week show that homelessness has risen by 36% since 2010 and that the number of homeless families living in bed and breakfasts has soared by 300%. Is the Minister not shocked at the dreadful legacy of the past five years, and will he commit to make tackling homelessness a top priority?

The Government are absolutely committed to tackling homelessness. The hon. Lady mentions bed-and-breakfast accommodation but, to put it into context, a small number of authorities—about 5%—account for 80% of the breaches. We are taking this very seriously and are absolutely clear that the long-term use of bed-and-breakfast accommodation for families with children is unacceptable and unlawful. However, the hon. Lady must also bear it in mind that the use of bed-and-breakfast accommodation is a third of its peak under the Labour Administration.

Given the pernicious link between homelessness, mental illness, addiction, crime and unemployment, what progress has been made on the autumn statement commitment to extend the principles of the troubled families programme to other individuals with multiple needs?

It is too early for me to comment on what will be in my right hon. Friend the Chancellor’s Budget—

I thank the hon. Lady for her advice.

I certainly hear what my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, Southgate (Mr Burrowes) says, and we are making it a great priority to work with troubled families to try to improve their lives and, in particular, outcomes for their children.

Is it not a scandal that there are so many people sleeping on the streets of this country and that so many children are being brought up in temporary accommodation with no long-term security? Is it not a scandal that much of that is brought about by short-term renting in the private rented sector by people who then get moved out, particularly in London, because of the way in which the benefit cap operates? Should we not rethink housing strategy and housing needs in this country?

I thank the hon. Gentleman and wish him luck in his endeavours over the next few months. He seems to be harking back to the same failed policies that lost his party the general election. He does raise an extremely important issue about assured shorthold tenancies and what happens to people when those tenancies come to an end. Some excellent work is going on, with some authorities helping people in that position to avoid homelessness. I want to build on the good work that has been done, to ensure that nobody is made homeless as a result of an assured shorthold tenancy.

So complacent.

I welcome the hon. Gentleman to his post. During the election, the Prime Minister stated that the number of people sleeping rough had gone down over the past five years. Crisis, the homelessness charity, said he had got his facts wrong. The Government’s own statistics show that the number of rough sleepers has gone up by 55%. Will the Minister correct the Prime Minister’s mistake?

I thank the hon. Lady for her welcome. Compared with the situation five years ago, this Government changed the methodology for counting rough sleeping so that we have a more honest and accurate assessment and do not sweep things under the carpet, as her party did when it was in government. We have a number of programmes on rough sleeping that are working well. The “No Second Night Out” programme has been rolled out across the country, and in London more than two thirds of those new to the streets are not spending a second night out because of that programme.