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Volume 637: debated on Monday 12 March 2018

Tackling homelessness and rough sleeping is a key priority for me and my Ministry. That is why we are spending more than £1 billion through to 2020. We are implementing the most ambitious legislative reform in decades—the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017—and we have established the rough sleeping and homelessness reduction taskforce.

The all-party group on ending homelessness recently took evidence on the success of rapid rehousing models in Denmark. What consideration has my right hon. Friend given to the merits of rolling out such programmes alongside the faster and wider roll-out of Housing First in England?

May I first pay tribute to my hon. Friend for the important role that he has played as the co-chair of the all-party group on ending homelessness? He is absolutely right to point to international experience when looking at the huge challenge that this country faces. As he knows, Housing First has come from the experience of others, particularly Finland. I thank him for his support.

The rising level of homelessness in Manchester is the biggest issue that people raise with me on the doorstep and elsewhere. All the good work that we are doing to rehouse people does not matter when there are too many people coming through the system at the other end. What conversations is the Secretary of State having with other Departments, especially the Department for Work and Pensions, about stopping people becoming homeless in the first place? The situation is getting completely out of control.

The hon. Lady is absolutely right to raise this issue, which comes up in Manchester and many other parts of the country. She is right to point to the cross-departmental work that is required, including with the Department for Work and Pensions and others, such as the Ministry of Justice, given the number of offenders who sometimes end up on the streets. The work is being co-ordinated, and the taskforce that the Prime Minister has created is helping to achieve just that.

Does my right hon. Friend agree with Catherine Street of the Memorial University of Newfoundland that the causes of homelessness and sleeping on the streets are very many and complex, and that this is not just down to a lack of housing? Will my right hon. Friend take the opportunity to go to the west midlands to visit Mayor Andy Street to see the work and initiatives that he is undertaking to prevent the problem?

My hon. Friend mentions two Streets; I agree with him on both. Catherine Street is absolutely right about the complex causes of homelessness, particularly rough sleeping. Andy Street, the Mayor of the west midlands, has really led the way on this, including with the Housing First project.

Exeter has suffered a terrible increase in homelessness and rough sleeping since 2010, although strenuous efforts by its Labour council have led to a reduction in rough sleeping over the past two years. Will the Secretary of State and Government colleagues revisit the decisions to cut supported living and public health grants to local authorities, which fund alcohol and drug treatment programmes, because that is hampering local authorities’ attempts to tackle this problem?

I am happy to join the right hon. Gentleman in commending the work done in Exeter. We should all try to learn from one another, and councils can learn from each other. It is important that we keep up funding wherever it is necessary to address the causes of addiction, whether that is drug or alcohol addiction. That is why we are providing a total of £1 billion in funding up to 2020, including for a number of projects that are specifically designed to help with addiction problems.

My hon. Friend is right to point to the causes of homelessness. Of course, a number of people who sleep on our streets are not from the UK. Everyone deserves help, but we must look carefully at the causes of homelessness. My Department is working carefully and closely with the Home Office to see what more we can do.

LGBT young people are much more likely than others to become homeless. According to the Albert Kennedy Trust, they account for up to 24% of the young jobless population. What is the Secretary of State doing to address this particular problem?

I agree with the hon. Lady that anyone who is homeless, particularly anyone who is sleeping rough, deserves the help of central and local government. We have more than 48 different types of projects in place—many of them are community-led and many are funded directly by the Government—that are designed to reduce the number of people on our streets and those suffering from homelessness.

The last official survey in Cheltenham found nine homeless people, each of whom is a living rebuke to us to do more. Will the Secretary of State join me in thanking all the staff at the P3 charity who are ensuring that the £1 million social impact bond provided by central Government is being used to provide one-to-one support?

Yes, I commend the P3 charity for its work. I know that my hon. Friend has taken a lot of interest in this. The Government have helped to fund some eight social impact bonds to help with rough sleeping, including the one in Cheltenham, and they are making a huge difference.

In Scotland we have some of the strongest rights for homeless people in the world. The Scottish Government’s homelessness and rough sleeping action group recently reported, and it has been praised by charities for taking steps in the right direction, including with a £50 million fund to eradicate homelessness. What cognisance are Ministers here taking of the work that is going on in Scotland? Will the Secretary of State look at the group’s recommendations?

The hon. Lady rightly emphasises the point about learning from each other. Where Scotland has had success on homelessness and rough sleeping, we shall certainly look into that, and we will seek other examples in the UK. My hon. Friend the Housing Minister is visiting Scotland later this week and will be looking at that particular issue.