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Rough Sleeping/Homelessness

Volume 613: debated on Monday 18 July 2016

One person without a home is one too many. That is why we have increased central funding for homelessness to £139 million over this Parliament and protected council homelessness prevention funding totalling £315 million by 2020.

Supporting homeless people will require real resources given to real people, such as the £115 million promised to the homeless charity Caritas Anchor House. May I encourage the Minister—and, indeed, the Secretary of State—to avoid, as he comes into his new responsibilities, just changing the deckchairs in different parts of Whitehall? In this context, will he please ditch his policy, or that of his predecessor, to impose an elected mayor on Lincolnshire?

I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has heard my hon. Friend’s question about the potential, or not, elected mayor in Lincolnshire. With regard to homelessness, it is always good to hear about how charities such as the one that he mentioned are using innovative ways to tackle old problems. Providing support to help people to recover from homelessness is extremely important. It is absolutely key that we help people in that position to start to rebuild their lives. That is why we are investing £20 million in tackling rough sleeping and £100 million in move-on accommodation from hostels and refuges.

Is my hon. Friend generally supportive of the No Second Night Out service, and how does he intend to ensure that it is available in all local authority areas?

We are absolutely supportive of the approach taken by No Second Night Out, which my Department rolled out nationally in the previous Parliament. I absolutely want to build on the success of this initiative. Our new £10 million rough sleeping fund will scale up ways in which we can prevent and reduce rough sleeping. It will also go further, building on the successful approaches of No Second Night Out—and indeed “no first night out”, because it is best if we can prevent people from being on the streets at all. Details of this programme and the bidding round will be announced shortly.

Beacon House is a wonderful charity supporting the homeless in Colchester. What further support can the Minister give to local charities like Beacon House up and down this country in their work to tackle homelessness?

My hon. Friend makes a good point. Charities play an extremely valuable part in the fight against homelessness. I know that he has taken part in a sleep-out to raise money for Beacon House, which this Department has also supported financially. I chair a round table with chief executives of a number of these vital homelessness charities to discuss what more can be done. The information that we have gathered at these meetings feeds directly into the ministerial working group, which I also chair.

The Minister is a fair-minded chap, and he will know that homelessness is a complex problem. First, as he will admit, there is a link between the lack of affordable housing—both rented and to buy—in our major cities. In addition, many of those we see on the streets of London and in Yorkshire are people on the mental health spectrum who need assistance and help, and cannot get it.

The hon. Gentleman makes extremely fair points. That is why we are investing £1.6 billion over this Parliament to deliver an additional 100,000 homes for affordable rent. His point about mental health is extremely well made. I chair a ministerial working group and am working with other Departments, and Ministers in other Departments, to ensure that the links between things such as mental health issues and drink and drug dependency are dealt with across Government, because this is not just a housing issue.

According to the Combined Homelessness And Information Network database, 8,096 people slept rough at some point in London during 2015-16—a 7% increase on the previous year. With an ever-growing housing crisis in this city, when are the Government going to take action and learn lessons from the different approaches taken by the devolved nations?

As I said in my answer to the previous question, this is not just a housing issue and therefore we are working across Government to try to resolve it. We are putting a significant amount of money— £139 million—into this important issue during this spending review period. That includes £10 million to scale up initiatives to prevent and reduce rough sleeping, which is extremely important, and £10 million for an upgraded social impact bond, which had a significant amount of success during the last Parliament.

20. Following the examination by the Communities and Local Government Committee, of which I am a member, of homelessness policy, and the private Member’s Bill promoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow East (Bob Blackman), will the Minister look into an approach whereby local authorities in England are specifically measured on their responsibility for homelessness? (905903)

We are aware that the Select Committee is due to publish its report shortly. Although we have not yet had sight of the report, I am keen to see the Committee’s recommendations and how it can help shape our programme of work. We want to ensure that local authorities have the tools that they need to put prevention absolutely at the heart of tackling homelessness. Good data and measurement are vital for that prevention, and that is why we are currently looking at how the data are collected and used to support prevention, so that we can find those at risk of becoming homeless far earlier than we do at present.