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Volume 627: debated on Monday 17 July 2017

No one should find themselves without a roof over their head. That is why this Government have committed to halve rough sleeping by 2022 and to eliminate it all together by 2027. We are implementing the most ambitious legislative reform in decades, ensuring that more people get the help they need before they face homelessness.

Our manifesto makes it clear that rough sleeping is unacceptable, and I am delighted that the Secretary of State shares my view that we should be demanding nothing less than its complete eradication. What is being done not only in England but in Cheltenham to end this stain on our society?

My hon. Friend cares very deeply about this issue and has done a lot in his constituency. I share those concerns and it is one of the reasons why, for example, we announced in our recent manifesto that we will be piloting the concept of Housing First, which has worked well elsewhere. He will also know that his town of Cheltenham will receive £1 million of our £10 million social impact bond, money that will help the most vulnerable rough sleepers get the help they need.

The Secretary of State talked about homelessness as though it is people living on the street; in my constituency, the council is spending £35 million a year on people living in hostels and temporary accommodation, and there are many other hidden households who are living with another family because they cannot afford a roof over their head. The Secretary of State talks about his ambitious plans, but they do not help people here and now; what is he doing now to make sure that people in Hackney South and Shoreditch, across London and the country can get a roof over their head that is affordable?

The hon. Lady reminds us all that homelessness is much more than about people living on the streets; there are many more families and people affected across the country, including, of course, in London. One thing we are doing that I am sure she will welcome is the announcement in a recent Budget that we will be putting £100 million into low-cost move-on accommodation that will provide at least 2,000 places.

First Point in my constituency works with many hundreds of my constituents who could be at risk of homelessness. Does my right hon. Friend think that housing associations should be doing more to refer individuals for support if arrears arise? That sometimes happens with larger housing associations, but smaller ones often fall short when it comes to referring constituents for support.

My right hon. Friend refers to how we can try to prevent homelessness from occurring in the first place, and rightly says that some housing associations do a much better job with these types of referrals when arrears arise. There is also a better role for local authorities, and the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 will certainly help to achieve that.

Surely the Secretary of State must give some hope of a vision that this Government actually believe in something. And if he believes in one thing, it must be sorting out the social housing market by building homes for people at affordable rents—and good quality ones, too.

I know the hon. Gentleman cares passionately about this, but it is worth reminding him that statutory homelessness reached its peak in 2003 and since then has fallen to half that number. But, of course, more needs to be done, and the right type of social homes in the right places have a big role to play.

Will my right hon. Friend join me in commending the work of YMCA Black Country and its excellent chief executive, Steve Clay, as it works, through its Open Door programme, to persuade more private individuals to open their homes to homeless young people?

I will very much join my hon. Friend in commending the work that the YMCA does in his constituency, throughout the Black country and indeed throughout the country. This is a lesson that can be learned by many other areas, and it is exactly the kind of thing we want to look at and see whether we can do more of it.

The Minister will be aware of the TV programme “Can’t Pay? We’ll Take It Away!”, in which officers arrive to evict people from their homes. Some of those people do not understand the High Court process and might not have paid their money, but some of them have paid their money and the High Court is unaware of that fact. What can be done to help those people at that last minute before the midnight hour?

I agree with my hon. Friend that more should be done in such difficult cases to help those vulnerable people. I know that some councils do a much better job than others in that regard, and I hope that the work we are now doing as a result of the Homelessness Reduction Act will help us to spread that good practice to more councils.