Rough Sleeping

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:34 pm on 25th February 2021.

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Photo of Robert Jenrick Robert Jenrick The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government 12:34 pm, 25th February 2021

I will try to answer as many of the hon. Lady’s questions as I can. I was sad that she could not be more fulsome in welcoming the achievements that have been made over the past year, because they are not just the achievements of this Government; they are the shared achievements of charities, local councils, volunteers and faith groups across the country. We have worked very productively across party lines with local government. In the remarks I have made and those I will no doubt make in answer to other questions today, I praise the councils that have made tremendous efforts—councils such as Birmingham City Council, which has gone to huge lengths to reduce the number of people sleeping rough. This is and should be an issue that cuts across party lines.

The hon. Lady says that the statistics published today are not her chosen method of measuring rough sleeping. She and others have made that point in the past, but this methodology has existed for well over 10 years. It is the most trusted measure of rough sleeping. It is independently verified by Homeless Link, and it uses a very similar methodology to that used by other developed countries such as Canada and France. I think she refers to the CHAIN—Combined Homelessness and Information Network—which is a different methodology and is not easily comparable. That takes an estimate of the number of individuals sleeping rough over a quarter, rather than on an individual night. I am confident that ours is the best way forward, although I am always open to suggestions on different ways one might choose to measure it. By any account, an enormous step forward has been made over the past year; I have not heard anyone who truly understands this issue dispute that.

The hon. Lady says that Everyone In came to an end and that we have not brought forward further support, but that is not correct. Everyone In is ongoing. As I have said, we now have 37,000 people who would otherwise have been sleeping rough on the streets of this country either already moved into good quality sustainable accommodation, be it in the private rented sector, in move-on accommodation or in social housing, or awaiting that move, with councils working closely on it. All those people also have wraparound care, looking after their mental health and other health issues they might face, to ensure that they can begin to rebuild their lives and become more productive members of society.

The hon. Lady also says that councils have not got the funding they need for the future, but again that is not correct. We have provided at the spending review a 60% increase in the amount of Government spending on rough sleeping and homelessness services, bringing it to more than £750 million in the next financial year. This is not primarily now an issue about funding; it is an issue about delivery and commitment, and there are wide variances across the country between councils that are grasping that and those that still have more work to do.

The hon. Lady has also in the past argued that we should not take the targeted approach that we did this winter and that we should have more of a scattergun approach across the country. We rejected that advice and decided to focus resources and effort on the places where it was really required. The statistics I am publishing today—both the snapshot and the statistics for December and January—validate that approach, because they show that in some parts of the country, such as Westminster, that extra effort has made all the difference. I praise the individual council leaders we have worked with, again on a cross-party basis, be it Rachael Robathan in Westminster or Georgia Gould in Camden, whose support has been much appreciated. I hope that we can work across party lines over the course of this year. I hope I can work with the hon. Lady, and I see opposite me her predecessor, John Healey, who made a great contribution on this issue when he was the shadow Housing Minister. We want now to move forward to capitalise on the immense efforts and achievements of the past year, and to end rough sleeping once and for all.