Skip to main content

Rough Sleeping

Volume 622: debated on Monday 27 February 2017

If I may, I would like to join you, Mr Speaker, in paying tribute to the late Member for Manchester Gorton. I was always grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for showing us that it is possible for the children of immigrants to treasure their roots while still embracing their Britishness and the active role they can play in public life. I am sure I speak for the whole House when I say he will be deeply missed, and my sympathies go to his family and friends.

One person sleeping on the streets is one too many. All too often, support is provided at crisis point. That is why we are supporting 84 projects through our £50 million homelessness prevention programme—an end-to-end approach to tackling homelessness and rough sleeping.

May I, too, Mr Speaker, associate myself with your comments regarding the late Father of the House? It is a sad day and a sad loss, and we shall all miss him dearly.

Official figures confirm that rough sleeping has more than doubled since 2010, after falling by more than three quarters under Labour. Why does the Secretary of State think that homelessness fell under Labour but has risen so dramatically under the Tories?

The hon. Lady touches on the record of the previous Labour Government. It would be fair to point out that the level of statutory homelessness acceptances was higher in every year of the previous Labour Government, bar one, than it is today. That shows that homelessness, whether rough sleeping or other forms, is a chronic long-term issue that has been challenging for successive Governments. If we can all work together on this and take a more cross-party approach, that can help. The support from Members across this House for the Homeless Reduction Bill introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow East (Bob Blackman) is a great example of how we can all work together.

Despite the great efforts of voluntary groups such as the King’s Arms project and the Salvation Army in Bedford, Bedford borough is a hotspot for people sleeping rough. What will the Secretary of State do to ensure that the measures that are coming forward in the areas where people are particularly at risk of rough sleeping are having the impact intended?

I know that my hon. Friend cares deeply about this issue, which he has raised with me in the past. I reassure him that the Government do take the issue of rough sleeping very seriously. I can point to the recent announcement of the £20 million rough sleeping fund, and also the work we are doing on social impact bonds to find new, creative methods that can also help.

Will the Secretary of State take the short trip up the M5 from Bromsgrove to the Black country, where he can visit the YMCA’s brilliant Open Door project, which finds stable family homes for homeless young people in the area, and achieves phenomenal results, getting the majority into college, into work, and even into university? Will he come and look at that and consider whether he can fund a similar scheme nationwide, because it really does achieve remarkable results?

I join the hon. Gentleman in commending the work of the YMCA in this field, particularly its Open Door project—I would like to learn more about that. It is just these kinds of projects that we want to see more of and provide support for. Our £50 million homelessness prevention fund, which is already supporting over 80 projects, can help in that.

Would not the good efforts of my right hon. Friend’s Department be assisted by a cross-Government strategy on homelessness that would deal with some of the underlying issues such as addictions, in encouraging the Department of Health to support more addiction services, and encouraging the Chancellor to increase the price of super-strength ciders in the forthcoming Budget?

I am pleased that my hon. Friend talks again about a cross-party approach to this very important issue. He highlights the need to look at the causes of homelessness. I think that when any Member of the House comes across anyone who is homeless, they will see that their needs are often complex—it can be to do with addiction, for example, or mental health issues. We would all do well to take those issues more seriously.

Does the Secretary of State agree that one of the reasons that people end up homeless and sleeping on the streets is the action taken by private landlords, very often in houses in multiple occupation? Will he look at what more could be done to regulate the private rented sector to prevent conditions arising that drive people on to the streets?

The right hon. Lady makes a good point. I do not think that that is the primary cause of homelessness, and nor is she suggesting that, but it is worth looking at it. I hope she will welcome our decision to extend licensing to smaller HMOs, because that can help with the situation.

While there remains much to do, the Scottish Government have pushed ahead with measures to help those who need it most, including the Scottish welfare fund, which has issued grants totalling £116 million since the scheme was established, groundbreaking homelessness legislation and regulation of private landlords and rents. What similar measures have the UK Government taken?

Some similar measures have been taken in England. For example, on the issue of providing enough funding, the last spending review set aside £550 million to tackle homelessness, and I have mentioned the homelessness prevention programme. There is also £100 million for a new programme to deliver at least 2,000 low-cost accommodation places, which I think will also help.