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Volume 627: debated on Monday 17 July 2017

6. What assessment he has made of trends in the number of homeless people sleeping rough between 2010 and 2016. (900506)

Nobody should ever have to sleep rough. My Department co-funded Crisis’s recent Housing First report, which shows how that approach can work to end rough sleeping for those with the most complex needs. We are now considering how Housing First can help our manifesto commitment to end rough sleeping by 2027.

Official figures released by the Minister’s Department continue to show year-on-year increases in the number of rough sleepers since 2010, including a 3% increase in London alone in the past year. Rough sleeping is often linked to mental health issues, so what specific steps will his Department take during this Parliament to address the mental health crisis among rough sleepers?

I thank the hon. Lady for that question and welcome her to the House. A number of underlying issues keep people on the streets when they are rough sleeping, and they certainly include mental health issues. Let me give her some insight into what is happening in her constituency: there is a social impact bond focusing on getting people with underlying mental health issues off the streets. I hope that she welcomes that.

In my constituency, homelessness is raised with me regularly already. Will my hon. Friend lay out the progress with the Government’s homelessness reduction taskforce so that I can allay some of those concerns?

I thank my hon. Friend for that question and welcome him to the House. He is right that the Government are setting up a homelessness reduction taskforce in addition to the measures in the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 and the homelessness prevention trailblazers being run by the Government as a forerunner to the Act’s coming into effect. The culture is now starting to change and councils are starting to help people far earlier as a result of the trailblazers in areas where they are taking place.

Rough sleeping in Plymouth is on the increase and large numbers of those who are sleeping rough served our country in the armed forces; they are veterans. What discussions has the Minister had with the Ministry of Defence about increasing the amount of funding going into support for rough sleeping veterans so that we can give all our veterans a decent home?

The hon. Gentleman mentions a critical area and it is vital that we support veterans who are rough sleeping. I run a cross-party working group attended by a number of Ministers, including one from the Ministry of Defence, and this is certainly a subject that we are eagerly trying to address.

We have heard about mental health issues and veteran issues, but does the Minister agree that another huge problem is addiction to both alcohol and drugs? What is he doing in that area?

My hon. Friend makes a perceptive point. The use of drugs, particularly psychoactive substances such as Spice, which seems to be prevalent among rough sleepers, is having a very detrimental effect on getting people off the street. She will have heard that last week the Home Office launched a drug strategy, and we are working closely with it on that because we realise how critical that is in dealing with the underlying issues and making sure that we can help people off the streets.