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Homeless Families: Accommodation Outside Home Borough

Volume 648: debated on Monday 5 November 2018

2. What guidance he has issued to local authorities on accommodating homeless families outside of their home borough. (907433)

I thank the hon. Lady for her question. As usual, I ask people to note my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests.

In December 2017 we updated the homelessness code of guidance for local authorities, chapter 17 of which makes it clear that, when possible, local authorities should place families as close as possible to where they were previously living.

There has been a 40% rise in London households being moved out of London by their local authority, and my own experience shows that local authorities are also moving families in unprecedented numbers away from their community, their children’s schools, their workplaces and their support. The code of guidance is clearly not working, so can the Minister tell us unambiguously that local authorities should, under no circumstances, expect children to commute to school from temporary accommodation for two, three or even four hours every day?

I do understand the particular problem that the hon. Lady is having in Westminster, but it is the London boroughs. We have been clear that placing families out of borough should be a last resort, and we have now committed £40 million to a London collaborative project that will ensure that families are placed in temporary accommodation close to home. We also recently launched the £20 million private rented sector access fund to support those who are homeless, or who are at risk of becoming homeless, to access sustainable accommodation. Finally, our specialist homelessness advisers are working closely with London boroughs in particular to provide support to limit the number of out-of-borough moves altogether.

The Housing First initiative has clear potential to prevent homelessness. What is the Department doing to monitor the effectiveness of pilots in Manchester and other cities, and what are its plans for taking the evidence forward?

My hon. Friend is right. The Housing First projects in Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool are backed by the £1.2 billion that we have committed to tackle all forms of homelessness and rough sleeping across the country through to 2020. Housing First and the private rented sector access fund are also providing local authorities with flexible funding to tackle the homelessness pressures they are facing.

The guidance also says that an authority moving a homeless family out to another area should inform the receiving authority within 14 days. I have written to the Minister twice about this issue, and she has replied that Peterborough City Council is systematically dumping homeless families in Travelodges across South Yorkshire without telling the receiving authority. What will she do to ensure that the statutory guidance passed by this House is actually enforced and that authorities do not continue to flout it?

The hon. Gentleman is an assiduous Member and does such a good job of chairing the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee —[Interruption.] Do you mind? We are trying to get there; let us have a bit of civility, shall we?

I have written again to the hon. Gentleman, and the important thing is that we have now had frank words with the local authority in Peterborough to say that it should have informed the receiving authorities—it has now done that. The team we have put together to help with homelessness is having a special word with Peterborough and other councils that were thinking of placing homeless people out of borough.

Homelessness has risen in each and every one of the past seven years. In the last year alone, 440 homeless people have died. The Budget pledged nearly £10 billion to a poorly targeted help-to-buy scheme, but it failed to mention homelessness once. Now the Secretary of State has scrimped together a measly £15,000 each for councils to tackle winter pressures. Will that guarantee that we will not see any rough sleepers on the streets this winter?

Sadly I do not have a crystal ball, but what I do have is a team of fantastic advisers who are making sure that councils have put in really good bids to help rough sleepers. Secondly, there is money: £40 million, £30 million, £75 million and, now, another £5 million. This Government take homelessness and rough sleeping extremely seriously, and we are the only Government who have put it in our manifesto that we want to halve homelessness and rough sleeping. We will be looking after the most vulnerable people in 2020, and we will finish this altogether in 2027. The answer is that the Government and the money that taxpayers are providing are doing their best.