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Housing First

Volume 635: debated on Monday 22 January 2018

In the recent Budget, we announced £28 million to pilot Housing First for some of the country’s most entrenched rough sleepers in the west midlands, the Liverpool city region and Greater Manchester. We are continuing to work with the pilot regions to refine the scope and design, ready for launch later this year.

Ahead of the commencement of the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017, will the Secretary of State join me in praising the work of Routes to Roots, a local charity that helps homeless and vulnerably housed adults in Poole?

First, let me thank my hon. Friend for the role that he played on the Bill Committee in getting that legislation on to the statute book. It will help to prevent homelessness in Poole and elsewhere. I agree that there is a lot that individuals can do to help to end the homelessness cycle, including by getting involved with voluntary groups such as Routes to Roots in his constituency, and to make a real difference for vulnerable people.

On Boxing day, a group called Activists for Love created a squat to shelter homeless people in Hull. I went to meet the residents on Saturday. The landlord, MRC lettings, has been very accommodating and is actually going to find everyone living there a home. However, I am concerned that the funding cuts to Hull City Council mean that it does not have the money for much-needed aftercare support to prevent these people from becoming homeless again. Will the Government please commit to providing more money for an aftercare homelessness service for Hull West and Hessle?

I can tell that the hon. Lady shares our desire, and that of all Members, to fight homelessness and rough sleeping. That is why I am sure that she will welcome the £1 billion that the Government have allocated to 2020 to fight homelessness, including £315 million for core funding for local authorities.

I commend the Government for initiating the Housing First pilots, but what assessment has my right hon. Friend made of rough sleeping in London, which is clearly under the greatest pressure? We want to ensure that people get a firm home of their own and that the Mayor of London actually delivers affordable housing for the capital.

I know that my hon. Friend cares deeply about this issue and has done much on it, not least through his work on the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017. He is right to raise this issue. We will not solve the problem of homelessness in this country unless London does its bit, and I am afraid that the Mayor of London is letting the people of London down. In his first year in office, not a single home for social rent was started in London. That is a tragic record.

The centre for housing policy at the University of York is leading on policy development and on validation of the Housing First initiative, yet City of York Council has presided over a fifteenfold increase in street homelessness since 2010. How will the Minister ensure that the residents of York can benefit from Housing First not just in theory, but through action?

I hope that the hon. Lady agrees that it makes sense to pilot Housing First properly so that we ensure that when it can be rolled out across the country, it will work properly. That is why we have set up the pilot areas. There are still lots of types of help in other parts of the country, much of which comes from the £1 billion of funding that we have allocated to 2020, which includes funding for local authorities such as York.

The December report of the local government and social care ombudsman, “Still No Place Like Home”, found that in seven out of 10 of the housing cases that it investigated, families were being placed in bed and breakfast accommodation for unlawfully lengthy periods, with some lasting more than two years. The report highlights the appalling physical and mental impact, including on children, of living in inadequate, crowded and sometimes damp conditions. Does the Secretary of State recognise just how damaging living in insecure, inappropriate housing is? Will we see any improvement for those families in the next 12 months?

I share the concerns of many hon. Members, which is why the Government have made fighting homelessness and reducing rough sleeping an absolute priority. The hon. Lady’s question recognises that action is required on many fronts—economic, mental health, addiction and other issues—and the Government have put together a programme to pursue them.