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Rough Sleepers: West Midlands

Volume 717: debated on Monday 27 June 2022

11. Whether he has had discussions with the Mayor of the West Midlands on steps his Department is taking to help rough sleepers into long-term accommodation. (900723)

The first thing Andy Street did when he became Mayor of the West Midlands was to convene a taskforce to tackle rough sleeping in the west midlands. He is a valued member of the Government’s rough sleeping advisory panel, where I welcome his advice regularly, and the Government have supported the west midlands with funding for a range of accommodation, including £1 million for new homes under the rough sleeping accommodation programme.

I thank my hon. Friend for mentioning the Mayor of the West Midlands—oh my gosh, I have forgotten his name; oh yes, it has come back to me—Andy Street. How does the Minister assess the effectiveness of the Housing First pilot that the Mayor has initiated in addressing rough sleeping in the west midlands?

Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands, has been a strong champion of the Housing First programme and the pilots. That has already achieved 552 individuals securing a tenancy through the programme. They are provided not just with accommodation but with the incredibly vital support that is necessary to help people to sustain a tenancy.[Official Report, 5 July 2022, Vol. 717, c. 10MC.]

I read a rather lovely interview with the Minister in a recent issue of The Big Issue where he reconfirmed the Government’s commitment to end street homelessness by 2024. All Labour Members want that to happen, and I actually think the Minister does too, but can he honestly tell the House that this pledge has his whole Department’s backing when the Secretary of State, sat next to him, is seeking to bring back the universally hated, cruel and antiquated Vagrancy Act 1824? If this Government really believe their own promise that they can end rough sleeping within the next two years, why are they seeking to recriminalise it now?

Our ambition to end rough sleeping in the lifetime of this Parliament does not just require the wholehearted investment of our Ministers but of Ministers right across the Government. We are working incredibly closely with Ministers from the Department of Health and Social Care and the Department for Work and Pensions to make sure that we do genuinely achieve that ambition. I look forward to working with Opposition Members in order to help us in that cause.