Rough Sleeping

Housing, Communities and Local Government – in the House of Commons on 24th February 2020.

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Photo of Bob Blackman Bob Blackman Conservative, Harrow East

What steps he is taking to deliver the Government’s commitment to end rough sleeping by the end of the 2019 Parliament.

Photo of Caroline Ansell Caroline Ansell Conservative, Eastbourne

What steps he is taking to deliver the Government’s commitment to end rough sleeping by the end of the 2019 Parliament.

Photo of Nickie Aiken Nickie Aiken Conservative, Cities of London and Westminster

What steps he is taking to deliver the Government’s commitment to end rough sleeping by the end of the 2019 Parliament.

Photo of Robert Jenrick Robert Jenrick The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government

The Government are acting to deliver on our ambitious manifesto commitment to be the first G20 country to eliminate rough sleeping. We recently committed an extra £112 million to the rough sleeping initiative. The funding is a 30% increase on the previous year. It will provide up to 6,000 beds and 2,500 staff across the country.

Photo of Bob Blackman Bob Blackman Conservative, Harrow East

I commend my right hon. Friend for the action he is taking, but clearly the best way to reduce rough sleeping is to prevent it happening in the first place. The review of my Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 is due at the end of this financial year and local authorities need to know how much funding they will have in successive years to deliver that Act. When he reviews the Act, will he ensure that local authorities, in combating homelessness, abide not only by the letter but the spirit of the law?

Photo of Robert Jenrick Robert Jenrick The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government

I would like to take this opportunity to thank and pay tribute to my hon. Friend for his invaluable work on the Homelessness Reduction Act. Since the Act was implemented, over 130,000 households have had their homelessness successfully prevented or relieved. We will be reviewing the implementation of the Act, including resourcing and how it is working in practice. Local authorities will now receive an additional £63 million in the next financial year through the homelessness reduction grant to carry out these duties. In the comprehensive spending review, which will set the multi-year spending review for local government, we will certainly take it very seriously.

Photo of Caroline Ansell Caroline Ansell Conservative, Eastbourne

In Eastbourne, we will make very good use of our share of the £1.5 million from the Government to address this issue locally. Our winter night shelter, which is orchestrated by local churches and powered by volunteers and the generous support of local businesses such as Iron Maidens, will close its doors in a matter of days. Will my right hon. Friend meet me and other partners to look at what it would mean to seek to establish a shelter all year round?

Photo of Robert Jenrick Robert Jenrick The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government

May I take this opportunity, like my hon. Friend, to pay tribute to all those involved in rough sleeping initiatives across the country? I visited many over the course of my six or seven months in this job and I have never failed to be incredibly impressed by their commitment and passion. I am sure that that is the case with the one in her constituency and I will, of course, happily meet her. The rough sleeping initiative, which the Government have pioneered, is working. Last year we saw the first fall in homelessness for many years, albeit a modest fall of 2%. I want to take that forward and I believe passionately that this is one of the great social ills that we can and will tackle as a Government.

Photo of Nickie Aiken Nickie Aiken Conservative, Cities of London and Westminster

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the excellent work undertaken by organisations such as The Passage in my constituency is vital if we are to meet our manifesto commitment to end rough sleeping by the end of this Parliament?

Photo of Robert Jenrick Robert Jenrick The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government

I thank my hon. Friend who, in her former role as leader of Westminster Council, played a critical role in taking forward these issues. I join her in praising the staff of The Passage, which is a phenomenal organisation. I have seen some of its work in practice. There are many great organisations in her constituency. I visited King George’s Hostel in Victoria just two weeks ago and was incredibly impressed by its staff. The approach I will be taking as Secretary of State will be to bring together for the first time health with housing, because homelessness is not just a housing crisis but a crisis of addiction and mental health. By bringing them together in a co-ordinated fashion for the first time, I genuinely believe we will be able to tackle this issue.

Photo of Alison McGovern Alison McGovern Labour, Wirral South

Nearly three years ago, a terrible explosion in New Ferry in my constituency left many buildings derelict. Local residents tell me that we now have people sleeping rough in derelict buildings, which is why I wrote to the Secretary of State on 28 January asking if he would meet me to discuss the situation in New Ferry and the fact that the Government need to help us. Please, will he meet me?

Photo of Lilian Greenwood Lilian Greenwood Labour, Nottingham South

Today, it has been reported that the problem of rough sleepers seeking shelter in bins has surged in the last five years, and according to the Health and Safety Executive, at least seven people have been killed after being accidentally tipped into bin lorries. The waste company, Biffa, recorded 109 near misses in the six months up to December. It is shocking that anyone should be so desperate that they would seek refuge in a bin. What is the Secretary of State doing to prevent these shocking statistics?

Photo of Robert Jenrick Robert Jenrick The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government

I would be very happy to hear more about the specific cases that the hon. Lady raises. We have a strategy; we are investing more than ever before—we spent 30% more than we did in the previous financial year—and the initiatives that we are funding are working. I am pleased to say that we are seeing the first falls in rough sleeping for many years, but we are not complacent. We believe that this is an important challenge and it is one that the Prime Minister and I are committed to. We hope that when the statistics for the November count are published on Thursday, we will see a further fall and a further move in the right direction on this issue.

Photo of Toby Perkins Toby Perkins Labour, Chesterfield

In Chesterfield, we have one-bedroom flats available, yet we also have people sleeping rough on the streets. The reason is that the benefits they receive do not cover the rent that they would have to pay for a one-bedroom council flat, so they are unable to take them up. I agree entirely with what the Secretary of State says about the value of hostels, but we could do away with the need for a lot of those if we had a welfare policy that supported people to live in the houses that already exist.

Photo of Robert Jenrick Robert Jenrick The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government

The hon. Gentleman is right that this is a multifaceted issue. We have ended the freeze on the local housing allowance, so that will rise in the next financial year with the consumer prices index. That will help to make it more affordable for individuals on the lowest incomes to get into homes in the private rented sector, but we will bring together all parts of Government with renewed vigour—whether that is the Department for Work and Pensions, the Home Office or the Department of Health and Social Care—to ensure that we tackle this issue as never before.