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Children in Temporary Accommodation

Volume 630: debated on Monday 30 October 2017

Temporary accommodation ensures that no child is left without a roof over their head. Homelessness prevention is at the centre of our approach to protecting the most vulnerable. We are spending over £950 million until 2020 to prevent homelessness and rough sleeping, as well as implementing the most ambitious set of legislative reforms in decades with the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

I asked the Minister what recent estimate he had made of the number of children in temporary accommodation. The answer is that there are more than 120,000—up 66% since his Government came to power. Why?

The number of children in temporary accommodation is below its peak in 2006, but we are certainly not complacent. That is why we have put £402 million into the flexible homelessness support grant over the next two years so that local areas can plan strategically to reduce the number of people in temporary accommodation.

Three and a half billion pounds has been spent on temporary accommodation in the private sector in the past five years. Most of the cost of this is found from the Department for Work and Pensions, even for households that work. Would this money not be better spent on building and letting council homes whose rent would be less than half that of expensive, poor-quality, temporary accommodation?

That is exactly why we have introduced the flexible homelessness support grant and are devolving £402 million to local authorities over the next two years so that they can plan more strategically, as I said to the hon. Member for Luton South (Mr Shuker). The hon. Lady will be pleased to know that the use of temporary accommodation in her area is actually falling.

The number of families in temporary accommodation in Croydon has doubled in seven years. Right now, two thirds of families in Croydon in local authority housing are in debt and at risk of eviction directly because of universal credit. How will the Minister stop more families in Croydon on universal credit becoming homeless and spending the winter months in temporary accommodation?

The latest available figures show that the number of people in temporary accommodation in Croydon is actually falling. This Government have given £1 million to Croydon for the homelessness prevention trailblazer that it put in for. We have also given £870 million in discretionary housing payments to help people who have short-term difficulty in sustaining their accommodation.

Wealden District Council has provided a stellar service supporting vulnerable children and homeless children. However, pressure at East Sussex County Council may lead to a change in service provision in rural areas like Wealden. Will my hon. Friend agree to meet me and Wealden Council to help it to continue to deliver superb children’s services?

I hear what my hon. Friend says and I will certainly be willing to meet her. We will get that meeting into the diary.

Child victims of human trafficking are the responsibility of local government, but adult victims of human trafficking are dealt with nationally. Would it not be a good idea to make child victims of human trafficking looked after nationally, which would also free up the money for local government to look after other children?

My hon. Friend raises an important point. This is a very important issue that we are considering very carefully, particularly as we come up to the local government finance settlement. I certainly hear what he says, and no doubt his views will be considered as we take this area of policy forward.

Northamptonshire has a disproportionately large number of unaccompanied asylum-seeker children, who are very expensive for the local authority to look after. Will my hon. Friend look at the local government funding formula to make sure that Northamptonshire is getting its fair share of resources?

I am aware of the issues that my hon. Friend puts to the House, particularly those that relate to the motorway network that runs through Northamptonshire. He knows that we have undertaken to conduct a fair funding review to see how local government resource is distributed. We are still committed to that, and we will take the work forward shortly.

Despite the shocking increases in homelessness overseen by this Government, the recent National Audit Office report found that the Department has not produced a strategy to tackle homelessness. When is it going to come up with a plan and publish it, so we can finally see some action for the 120,000 homeless children in Britain today?

As the hon. Lady knows, the Government are doing a significant amount to change the culture across the country and make sure that we do far more in relation to prevention. Through the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017, we are confident that we are going to see significant progress. As I said at the start of this group of questions, we are putting £950 million into this up to 2020.