Homelessness

Housing, Communities and Local Government – in the House of Commons on 22nd July 2019.

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Photo of Peter Aldous Peter Aldous Conservative, Waveney

What steps his Department is taking to reduce homelessness.

Photo of Heather Wheeler Heather Wheeler Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Housing, Communities and Local Government)

We are spending more than £1.2 billion to 2020 to reduce homelessness. We have implemented the most ambitious legislative reform in decades, the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017; we are taking immediate action to begin to reduce the number of people on the street through the rough sleeping initiative; and last summer, we published our rough sleeping strategy.

Photo of Peter Aldous Peter Aldous Conservative, Waveney

Schemes such as Somewhere Safe To Stay are having success, but will the Minister take on board the feedback that I am receiving from Access Community Trust, Lowestoft Rising and the Salvation Army? They say that to eliminate homelessness, short-term one-year pilots must be turned into longer-term funding commitments and supported accommodation must be provided for those facing mental health challenges.

Photo of Heather Wheeler Heather Wheeler Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Housing, Communities and Local Government)

My hon. Friend is a doughty fighter for his constituency, and he never shies away from meeting the right sort of people to make a difference in his community. I have met the Salvation Army and several of the other bodies that he mentioned, and he is quite right. I recognise the importance of giving local areas security around funding, and that remains a priority for the Government. Decisions about the future of homelessness funding will be made at the spending review later this year. We were clear in the rough sleeping strategy that accommodation, alongside the right support for people with needs, is vital. That is why we are funding a range of initiatives, including the rapid rehousing pathway, through which we directly fund almost 140 areas.

Photo of Ellie Reeves Ellie Reeves Labour, Lewisham West and Penge

Earlier this month, a young homeless women in Forest Hill, Stefania Bada, died after contracting an infection. Since 2010, the number of rough sleepers in this country has more than doubled. There has been a steep drop in investment for new affordable homes, billions of pounds cut from housing benefit and significant cuts to services for homeless people. What immediate action will the Government take to prevent any further loss of life?

Photo of Heather Wheeler Heather Wheeler Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Housing, Communities and Local Government)

Any loss of life is to be pitied, and we all apologise for that. It should not happen on our streets, particularly when rough sleepers are being looked after but drug dependency is involved. If an issue happens, it is tragic. We have put in £1.2 billion up to 2020 to solve these issues, and we are not shying away from them. We now give specific support to more than 240 councils, and that is a huge jump.

Photo of Kevin Hollinrake Kevin Hollinrake Conservative, Thirsk and Malton

First, may I declare my interest? There are real fears that the proposed abolition of section 21 in the private rented sector will lead to rent controls and a significant reduction in investment and supply, which may well exacerbate homelessness. Will my hon. Friend consider these fears before pressing ahead with the proposals?

Photo of Heather Wheeler Heather Wheeler Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Housing, Communities and Local Government)

I hope my hon. Friend will excuse my back; as we all know, we talk to each other through the Speaker.

This is a very difficult issue, and one that we want to get right. People from all sides are asking questions about it, which is why the consultation is so important, and I encourage my hon. Friend and other people to take part in it. A very interesting report from 2010 suggested that rent control would make matters an awful lot worse, but the consultation is important.

Photo of Gareth Thomas Gareth Thomas Party Chair, Co-operative Party

Estimates of homelessness among veterans of our armed forces range from the low thousands to approximately 11,000. Why does the Minister think that the Government have failed veterans of our services?

Photo of Heather Wheeler Heather Wheeler Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Housing, Communities and Local Government)

As Members might imagine, as the Minister with responsibility for veterans in MHCLG, I have taken a great interest in this matter. In London, we have data from the combined homelessness and information network—so-called CHAIN data—which gives us very good and specific data about the number of veterans who are on the streets. Similarly, the homelessness case level information classification, or H-CLIC, contains data that all councils put into it. It is still experimental, because it has been going for less than 18 months, but the latest figures show that the number of veterans on the streets is lower than it has ever been, and lower than 3%.[This section has been corrected on 5 September 2019, column 4MC — read correction]

Photo of Alison Thewliss Alison Thewliss Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Treasury), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Housing, Communities and Local Government)

Home Office contractor Serco is intent on making 300 vulnerable asylum seekers homeless in Glasgow. Some have been able to get interim interdicts through the efforts of the Govan Law Centre, the Legal Services Agency and Latta & Co, but some, including a constituent of mine, have not. Will the Minister speak to her colleagues in the Home Office to stop these evictions, which will result in people being put on to the streets?

Photo of Heather Wheeler Heather Wheeler Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Housing, Communities and Local Government)

As the hon. Lady agrees, this is a devolved matter. However, as regards the Home Office, I will of course do so. I recall a question that was asked at Prime Minister’s questions last week about it, and I need to refer the hon. Lady to the answer given then.

Photo of Alison Thewliss Alison Thewliss Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Treasury), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Housing, Communities and Local Government)

A lot of this is not actually a devolved matter, because it is to do with the Government’s hostile environment, which will make it incredibly difficult for these 300 individuals, once made homeless, to be rehoused. That is a damning indictment on this Government. Will the Minister apologise for a policy that denies people the right to a roof of their head and is actively causing homelessness in my city of Glasgow?

Photo of Heather Wheeler Heather Wheeler Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Housing, Communities and Local Government)

Of course, the hon. Lady is absolutely right: this is a Home Office matter. I apologise for not explaining myself correctly before. It is a matter for the Home Office, and I will refer her question to the Home Office.