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Volume 607: debated on Monday 21 March 2016

10. What assessment he has made of the effect of Government policy on levels of homelessness since 2010. (904228)

Since 2010, we have enabled local authorities to help prevent or relieve over 1 million cases of homelessness, but one person without a home is one too many. So we have increased central funding for homelessness to £139 million over the next four years and protected homelessness prevention funding to councils amounting to £315 million by 2020.

I would be grateful if the Minister answered the question and, in particular, if he said why we have had a doubling of street homelessness since 2010 and why there are currently 370,000 households with no permanent home. Does he not see that these are a direct result of a series of Government policies introduced since 2010, and they are set to get worse—the removal of funding for new social rent housing, the bedroom tax, housing benefit caps, a rise in sanctions, the cut in funding for housing benefit for supported housing and the sale of 100,000 council homes?

I would suggest that the hon. Lady seek an Adjournment debate on the subject, but I realise now that she has just had it.

I do not know whether the hon. Lady has anything she could add to that list, but this is an extremely important issue. The Conservative party recognises that and we changed the methodology on rough sleeping to give a more accurate picture of the challenges. The issues with rough sleeping are not just about housing; they are about things such as mental health challenges and issues relating to drink and drug dependency, for example. The Chancellor, working with DCLG, confirmed an additional £100 million in the Budget for move-on accommodation, so that we can help to move rough sleepers out of the hostels they are put into and into move-on accommodation, thereby helping even more rough sleepers to get off the streets.

The Albert Kennedy Trust’s recent report found that 24% of homeless youth are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, the majority citing parental rejection or abuse as the primary reason for their homelessness. Does the Minister support the trust’s call for vulnerable young people aged 18 to 21 facing rejection and abuse at home to be treated as a group exempt from the housing benefit changes?

I spoke just last week to over 100 young people who have been through the problems caused by the type of issues to which the hon. Lady refers. I can assure her that this Government are absolutely committed to protecting the most vulnerable through the changes she mentions. We are currently looking carefully at how those changes take place to make sure the most vulnerable are absolutely protected.

The Minister is right to say that the best way to tackle the whole question of those sleeping rough on our streets is prevention and by tackling the underlying causes that he has mentioned. Given that, may I strongly encourage him to use the new £10 million social impact bond to focus specifically on the underlying causes, so that we do not just stop people going on to the streets, but keep them off the streets altogether?

That is a very sensible suggestion from my hon. Friend, who I know has significant knowledge and expertise in this area. I am working through these issues across Government in a cross-departmental working group to try to bring forward the social impact bond, which will help to get entrenched rough sleepers off our streets.

I welcome the £100 million in the Budget to deliver low-cost second-stage accommodation for rough sleepers and domestic abuse victims. What work can be done to encourage social and private landlords to take those who find themselves in that situation?

My hon. Friend makes an extremely important point. This Department has supported organisations such as Crisis to deliver support to allow people to get into the private rented sector through things such as bond schemes and deposit schemes, so that those who would otherwise be unable to afford the deposit to get into private rented accommodation are able to do so.

Last week the Select Committee on Communities and Local Government took oral evidence from Crisis that suggests that an estimated 3,600 people sleep rough in a typical night in England. That figure is up 30% in the last year. Why does the Minister think that rough sleeping is rising so quickly in England and what action is he taking to get a grip on this?

We are giving serious consideration to making sure we prevent homelessness before it happens. Obviously, if homelessness does happen, we have to help; and, as I said earlier, we are taking significant steps to help rough sleepers off the streets. Homelessness prevention is key. We are looking at our options and looking at what goes on across the world in this respect, including in the devolved Administrations. We are looking at all options, working with homelessness charities and through a cross-ministerial working group, to make sure we tackle homelessness and the causes of it.

Shelter, which also gave evidence last week, suggested that 250% more people had become homeless over the past five years because their private tenancies had ended. Last week the Scottish Government passed the Private Housing (Tenancies) (Scotland) Bill, which abolished no-fault eviction. Will the Minister look at Scotland‘s anti-homelessness legislation to establish what can be done to benefit homeless people in England?

As I said to the hon. Lady in my earlier answer, we will not ignore good practice where it is happening. We are giving careful consideration to how we can improve homelessness prevention, and if the hon. Lady wishes to give me further information, I shall be more than willing to look at what has been done in Scotland.

I, too, welcome the Chancellor’s announcement of an extra £110 million to help to tackle rough sleeping, a problem that is evident in my constituency because of the large number of tourists in our city. How will my hon. Friend ensure that charities such as Genesis Trust and Julian House, which benefited from the Chancellor’s measures in the last Parliament, will be able to benefit from the new fund as well?

I was delighted to hear my hon. Friend welcome the changes that were made in the Budget to support the homeless and rough sleepers, and I was also pleased to hear about the work that is being done by Julian House and the Genesis Trust. I can assure him that we will work with the homelessness sector and local authorities to design the £110,000 million to help people who are on the streets to come off the streets.

Last Wednesday the Chancellor announced money to support the homeless and reduce rough sleeping, but the Treasury has said that it is not extra money, but money from the Department for Communities and Local Government’s existing capital budget, which was announced in the autumn statement. So we have an ever growing national crisis of homelessness, no solution at all to the root causes, and no extra money. Is this not yet another example of a deeply unfair Budget from a deeply flawed Chancellor?

I think that the hon. Lady is misguided: some of that money is extra money. She has, however, drawn attention to the fact that we are working very closely with my right hon. Friend the Chancellor and the Treasury to put right the mess that her party left when it was in government.