I am aware of recent reports that some young people, including perhaps a small number under 16 years of age, sleep rough, but I am not sure that an investigation would help. Local authorities have the power to return children of this age to their parents or to receive them into care and provide accommodation for them.
Is my hon. Friend aware that a Mr. Henderson, of the Elfrida Rathbone Society, claims that there are 3,000 children, some of them very young, living rough in the Liverpool area alone. Does he agree that such reports need investigation so that they can be acted upon if they are true, and refuted if untrue?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for putting that point. It is difficult to get accurate figures, but we study with care the reports we receive, including this one. There are some indications that the problem is growing. It is for this reason that local authorities have substantial powers and duties. I pay tribute to the valuable work carried out by voluntary organisations in this field, often with Government support.