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Homeless People: Death Rates

Volume 658: debated on Monday 8 April 2019

Every death of someone who is homeless is one too many, and we have a moral duty to act. We are committed to ending rough sleeping for good and aim to halve it by 2022. Our strategy, which commits us to £100 million to tackle rough sleeping, is funding more than 1,750 bed spaces and 500 new staff through the rough sleeping initiative.

I thank the Minister for that response. An estimated 120 homeless people in the north-east have died since 2013—a staggering increase of 71%. Those 120 lives mattered and they deserve some recognition. The Government have said that local authorities need to investigate fully the circumstances of such deaths, yet have failed to provide any funding or support to ensure that those investigations happen. Is that because people dying on our streets are not really a priority for this Government?

Obviously, the figures that the hon. Lady reads out are desperate and sad news. We are working with the Department of Health and Social Care to ensure that when a homeless person dies, a safeguarding adult review takes place, where appropriate. The safeguarding adult review process was set up not to review every death of an adult considered to require safeguarding but as a process for learning lessons where the safeguarding adults board is of the view that local partners could have done more to prevent a death resulting from abuse or neglect.

21. I thank my hon. Friend for her answers so far. Clearly, to prevent people from dying on our streets because they are homeless, it is far better to provide them with a home, or to prevent them becoming homeless in the first place. Will she update the House on what is being done in the Housing First trials, so that we can see that innovative scheme rolled out across the country and end homelessness for good? (910282)

I thank my hon. Friend for that question. The Housing First pilots are in the Greater Manchester, Greater Birmingham and Greater Liverpool areas, and £38 million has been put aside to assist with them. The Mayor of the Greater Birmingham area, Andy Street, phones me regularly to tell me about the progress on the Housing First pilots in the west midlands. The pilot in Liverpool is going quite well too but, sadly, the one in Manchester is not going as well, but I like a bit of competition between the three Mayors and I am sure they will all step up.[Official Report, 9 April 2019, Vol. 658, c. 2MC.] [Official Report, 11 April 2019, Vol. 658, c. 6MC.]

The Hull Daily Mail reported that in Hull alone 35 homeless people died between 2013 and 2017, part of the 24% increase in rough sleeping deaths across England and Wales in five years. That has happened on the Government’s watch. Why does the Minister think that has happened?

Again, I say that anyone dying is a tragedy. For the hon. Lady to give those numbers is a salutary lesson on how councils need to work very hard. The rough sleeping and homelessness reduction taskforce is driving forward the implementation of our cross-government strategy to achieve our commitment to halve rough sleeping by 2022 and to end it altogether. The latest figures, in 2018, show that the number of people sleeping rough on our streets has fallen for the first time in several years, and that the number sleeping rough in our specialist areas has reduced by 19%.

No one wants to see people sleeping rough on our streets. Will my hon. Friend join me in congratulating the huge teamwork going on in Cornwall across the public and private sectors? That has seen a reduction in rough sleepers by over 40% in the last year.

My hon. Friend is a true champion for her area. The statistics in Cornwall show how this matter can be dealt with successfully when partners come together—a reduction of 40% in rough sleeping in one year alone is a true testament to the reason why we need to tackle this. We will not let it rest.