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Rough Sleepers: Accommodation

Volume 684: debated on Monday 16 November 2020

As part of our plan to end rough sleeping, earlier this year I announced a £433 million funding package, which will provide 6,000 homes for rough sleepers over the course of this Parliament, the largest ever investment in accommodation of this kind. We are taking immediate action with the funding. Last month, we allocated over £150 million to local partners to deliver 3,300 new homes to rough sleepers across England, and these will be available by the end of March next year.

I thank my right hon. Friend for his answer. The brilliant work of the Government, charities and local government in the Everyone In initiative meant that 30,000 people were provided with safe emergency accommodation, which obviously reduced pressure on the NHS and undoubtedly saved lives. I welcome the Protect programme and the announcements he has made on new homes, but the reality is that the announcement of 3,000 new homes will not help and assist the 30,000 people in total who need accommodation right now. What efforts will he make to ensure that safe and secure accommodation is provided to all those threatened with rough sleeping? Also, will he commit to rolling out the Housing First programme, which is so necessary to help those who have been sleeping rough to rebuild their lives?

I can assure my hon. Friend that that is absolutely the priority for my Department. I am proud that, as of September, we have successfully supported over 29,000 vulnerable people through our efforts, with over 10,000 helped into emergency accommodation and nearly 19,000 already provided with settled accommodation or move-on support. Thankfully, very few of those individuals have so far returned to the streets. He mentions Housing First. He will know that we have funded a number of pilots, which he helped to inspire in previous years. We have learnt from that work, and that is very much the impetus behind the rough sleeping accommodation programme, because every individual who goes into one of these 6,000 new homes will be given wraparound care for mental health, addiction, substance abuse and all the other things that they need to begin to rebuild their lives.

The Government’s former rough sleeping tsar has warned that we are heading for a “perfect storm of awfulness” this winter when it comes to homelessness. With many owner-occupiers and renters struggling with bills, rent or mortgages, there is a likelihood that more people will get to a place of desperation. There are already 130,000 children in temporary accommodation, but there is little action from the Government to tackle hidden homelessness. With rough sleeping levels going back to where they were and no repeat of Everyone In, there is real concern. What does the Secretary of State consider to be different about rough sleeping in a winter lockdown, apart from it being colder and more dangerous than in spring?

In a letter to me, the hon. Lady described the Government’s Everyone In programme as “an incredible achievement” that helped to save “hundreds of lives”. She is absolutely right, and I would like to thank all the councils and charities that were part of that. That plan has not stopped; that work continues. We are backing it with £700 million of Government investment. We began planning for the winter in the summer. We have put more money in for housing. We have also asked every local authority in the country to draw up its own individual plan and backed that with £100 million of additional support. The Protect programme now once again asks local authorities to give everyone who is sleeping rough on the streets during this new period of national measures a safe place to stay. We will be working cross-party with councils across the length and breadth of England to make that a success.