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Departmental Update

Volume 669: debated on Tuesday 7 January 2020

Troubled Families allocations

On 5 January I announced up to £165 million of new funding for the Troubled Families Programme for 2020-21. This funding will provide intensive support for some of the most vulnerable families and place the programme on a stable footing for the future. It will help more families to get early, practical and co-ordinated support to transform their lives for the better, with key workers working with the whole family to address their needs holistically rather than responding to each problem, or single family member separately.

This funding will also help local authorities and their partners to work together to reduce demand and dependency on costly, reactive key public services. The latest evaluation results show that as a result of the Troubled Families Programme, two years after joining there were a third fewer children going into care, a quarter fewer adults going to prison, 15% fewer juvenile convictions and 11% fewer claiming job seekers allowance.

Pets in privately rented accommodation

As part of the steps the Government are taking to secure a better deal for renters, I have called on landlords to make it easier for responsible tenants to have well behaved pets in their homes while recognising landlords’ rights to protect their properties from damage. Pets bring a huge amount of joy and comfort to people’s lives, but some families cannot experience this because they rent their homes privately. We will publish a revised model tenancy agreement shortly, which can be used as the basis of lease agreements, to remove restrictions on responsible tenants with wellbehaved pets.

Rogue landlord enforcement

I have awarded more than 100 councils across England a share of over £4 million to crack down on criminal landlords and letting agents through the Private Rented Sector Innovation and Enforcement Grant Fund. This builds on £2.4 million awarded in January 2019 and will continue the Government’s ongoing work to make the private rented sector fairer and stamp out criminal practices for good. Most landlords provide decent homes for their tenants, but a small minority persist in breaking the law, making tenants’ lives a misery by offering inadequate or unsafe housing. The grants support a range of projects to enable councils to make the best use of their enforcement powers and include trialling innovative ideas, sharing best practice and targeted enforcement where we know landlords shirk their responsibilities. The Government are committed to helping good landlords to thrive, and ensuring that hard-working tenants across the country get the homes they deserve—creating a housing market that works for everyone.

High Streets package

At the heart of this new Government’s mission is a commitment to supporting places and communities that have been overlooked and undervalued for far too long. We will make an immediate start on levelling up across the regions and I am reorganising my Department to relentlessly focus on these places so that we can deliver real change for communities through our £3.6 billion Towns Fund, announced by the Prime Minister in July 2019. It will support an initial 100 town deals across England and includes £1 billion for the Future High Streets Fund.

The Future High Streets Fund aims to renew and reshape town centres in a way that improves experience, drives growth and ensures future sustainability. Last week we released over £1 million of additional funding, on top of £13.5 million already invested in local authorities, to further support places developing detailed business cases of their original proposals.

In addition to this funding I also announced that the High Streets Task Force, established to provide hands-on support to local areas, will be piloting interventions, products and services in 20 places in early 2020 before rolling out expert, training and data offer across the country later in the year. The places benefiting from being part of this pilot will be a mixture of local authorities, business improvement districts and community groups. The taskorce is also holding an open recruitment for a board chair to provide expert leadership to this programme.

My Department has also launched a survey to consult on the proposed register of empty commercial properties, to improve transparency of ownership on the high street and make it easier for businesses or community groups to make use of vacant commercial properties and identify landlords. The consultation exercise will remain open until 9 February 2020, after which we will consider responses and decide how to proceed.

Cold Weather Fund

This Government are committed to tackling homelessness and rough sleeping within the term of this Parliament. To this end, on 23 December I announced the allocation of £263 million in funding to local authorities designed to support the delivery of services to tackle homelessness. This is an increase in overall funding for local authority homelessness services of £23 million on the previous financial year.

My Department is also funding many additional rough sleeping services across the country this winter through our £10 million cold weather fund. In recognition of the level of interest in the fund we have announced a further £3 million available to all local authorities in England. This will enable us to build on the successes of the fund so far by increasing outreach work further and extending winter shelter provision to support rough sleepers off the streets this winter. These announcements underline our commitment to tackling homelessness and rough sleeping and will ensure local authorities are given the resource they need to make this a reality in local areas.

Housing First

My Department announced recently that 200 people have so far been housed through the Housing First pilot, underway since 2018 in Greater Manchester combined authority, Liverpool city region and west midlands combined authority areas. The Housing First approach offers permanent affordable housing to rough sleepers with multiple complex needs as well as wraparound support to ensure that they are able to maintain their tenancies and provide the support that they need to recover from mental health issues, substance misuse and the physical effects of living on the streets.

Community pubs

On 22 December I announced a £1.15 million fund that will assist an estimated 100 communities to either own their local pub or benefit from new, pub-based community services and facilities. This funding will also create valuable new jobs and volunteering opportunities. Pubs run by the community and for the community help bring people closer together. Importantly, they are a space for older, vulnerable and more isolated residents to access important local services and feel part of their communities.

The £1.15 million fund will support pubs through two key programmes. £650,000 will be allocated to the second “More than a Pub” programme. More than a pub provides small grants and specialist advice for community groups at the start of their journey to community ownership. It also supports groups later in the process who require specialist professional advice with larger grants and loans to help with business planning, conveyancing, architectural help or financial advice.

Five hundred thousand pounds will be allocated to” Pub is the Hub” to enable a range of projects providing new, pub-based community services from post offices and shops to libraries and allotments. This will increase the services available in rural and remote communities and help sustain pubs as community assets and businesses.