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Rough Sleeping

Volume 599: debated on Monday 14 September 2015

One person without a home is one too many. That is why since 2010 we have invested more than £500 million in local authorities and the voluntary sector to prevent and tackle homelessness in their areas.

I was intrigued to hear the Minister mention earlier how dearly the Government hold those who serve in our armed forces. Ex-forces rough sleeping in London has risen elevenfold since 2010. Homes 4 Heroes does a brilliant job in my constituency supporting the ex-forces, but what specific measures does the Department have to prevent those leaving our armed forces from ending up on the streets, and to intervene when they are identified as rough sleeping?

As I said earlier, this is an extremely important issue. Ministerial work is going on in relation to the military covenant, and my hon. Friend the Minister for Housing and Planning is part of that ministerial group. We are also supporting local authorities with programmes to help them with rough sleepers, both to help rough sleepers on the street so that they do not spend a second night out—that has been especially useful in London—and to work with other housing groups so that rough sleeping does not become entrenched. We are helping people to get off the streets, especially those with mental health issues.

Will the Minister confirm that statutory homelessness acceptances are now lower than they were under the previous Labour Government?

My hon. Friend is right. Statutory homelessness is now lower than in 26 of the last 30 years and less than half of what it was at its peak under the last Labour Government.

20. Homeless people are 13 times more likely to be victims of crime than the general public and are more likely to suffer from serious health problems. Will the Minister explain his plans for the future of the homelessness prevention grant? (901315)

I welcome the hon. Lady to the House. As she has identified, the homelessness prevention grant has been powerful in that councils have been able to use it to stop people becoming homeless. She will be glad to know that we are considering the future of the grant in the context of the upcoming spending review.

On 12 October, I and other Members will be taking part in sleep out night. The Government are rightly proud of the resources they put into such projects during the previous Parliament. Will the Minister confirm that to tackle rough sleeping he will be putting in money and continuing to support the Homelessness Change and No Second Night Out projects, which do a huge amount to prevent rough sleeping?

It is always good to see the interest my hon. Friend has in this particularly important issue. I can assure him that I realise the value of the No Second Night Out programme. In London, two thirds of rough sleepers come off the streets after a single night out as a result of the programme. As I said in the previous answer, the Government are currently undertaking a spending review. We are considering the merits of this important scheme as a part of that.

Under Labour, rough sleeping went down by 75%. Since 2010, rough sleeping by young people in London alone has gone up by 123% and is about to get worse. Is the Minister so weak that he cannot persuade his Department for Work and Pensions colleagues that taking housing benefit away from 18 to 21-year-olds will have a catastrophic effect on vulnerable young people, or does he not care?

I have said to the hon. Lady before that this Government have taken a different approach—a more honest and open approach—where we are actually calculating the number of rough sleepers properly. That did not happen when the Labour party were in government. On the welfare changes that the hon. Lady mentions, it is important to say that we have made it very clear that our proposals would protect vulnerable people in particular. This Government are on the side of people who want to get on and who aspire. We do not want young people to be trapped in dependency, as several generations have been hitherto. Obviously, the hon. Lady thinks that that is a good thing.