Nick's intervention in the estimates day debate.


Nick Herbert (Arundel and South Downs) (Con)

My hon. Friend [Gillian Keegan] is surely right about the importance of a long-term solution and providing more affordable housing, including in our area of West Sussex. Does she agree that there is also an important role for schemes uch as emergency hosting for young people who become homeless, which can be provided by volunteers? The brilliant Depaul Nightstop service—I declare an interest, as my partner works for Depaul—provides such a scheme, but in only half the local authorities in England.


Gillian Keegan (Chichester) (Con)

I do, and I am familiar with that fantastic scheme. We need to be more innovative to solve this problem. With a large number of people seeking permanent homes, house building measures are a step in the right direction, but building homes takes time, and many people’s needs are urgent, so such schemes are helpful.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government (Mrs Heather Wheeler)

I am grateful, Madam Deputy Speaker, for the opportunity to wind up this important debate this afternoon. As the right hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Sir Edward Davey) noticed, an estimates day motion has not been voted against since 1919, so I am sure that we will continue that fantastic tradition today.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Oxford West and Abingdon (Layla Moran) and my hon. Friend the Member for Chichester (Gillian Keegan) on opening this afternoon’s debate, as well as the 33 Members who have contributed. This topic is one of supreme importance and I know that it is close to all our hearts. I am appreciative of the experiences and expertise shared today, whether from a constituency or a wider perspective. I also remind Members of my entry in the Ministers’ register of interests. I shall try to answer many of the questions I have been asked.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I have repeatedly been clear that one person without a home is one too many. That is why the Government have set an ambitious target to halve rough sleeping over this Parliament and eliminate it altogether by 2027. Now, given many of the recent stories and the personal experiences shared today, I am aware that that is no small feat. The scale and the nature of the problem is large, but I want to ensure the House today that this ambition is about more than just words. The Government are taking groundbreaking steps through spending programmes, legislative reform and cross-Government working to ensure that we are funding solutions to create long-term change while backing key programmes that are working.

We have allocated more than £1 billion to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping over the spending review period. This includes—the list is by no means xhaustive— £316 million of local authority prevention funding agreed as part of the local government finance statement, and £402 million in flexible homelessness support grant funding for local authorities over 2017-18 and 2018-19, with further spending for 2019-20 to be announced shortly. I reiterate: more money will be announced shortly. This up-front grant funding is giving local authorities the flexibility to tackle homelessness strategically in their local area. There was the £100 million agreed at Budget 2016 to deliver low-cost “move on” accommodation for rough sleepers leaving hostel accommodation and people leaving refuges, and a further £215 million for central Government programmes.


Adam Holloway (Gravesham) (Con)

Does the Minister not think it a no-brainer that if successive Governments continue with very high levels of immigration and fail to build houses, we are going to have a problem? I lived homeless in London for three months for a television programme. Nearly 50% of homeless in London are from eastern Europe and there are horrendous hostels which are totally unsuitable for mentally ill and drug-addicted people. Unless we deal with the underlying causes of street homelessness we will get nowhere near to solving the problem.


Mrs Wheeler

I thank my hon. Friend for sharing his life with us. It is very interesting how we all have different experiences and bring them to bear in this House. I thank him for those comments.

The £215 million for central Government programmes features a range of innovative programmes and funding mechanisms designed to hit the problems square on. For example, we have allocated £28 million to fund three Housing First pilots for the most entrenched rough sleepers. Housing First is an internationally established approach to ending homelessness for people with complex needs. It works on the principle that, first and foremost, an individual is found a home and then provided services to tackle the cause. It is a not a new approach for the Finnish, who are the only country in Europe to see homelessness fall in recent years.

The funding also includes our £50 million homelessness prevention programme to provide innovative approaches to reducing homelessness, with prevention at its heart. This is comprised of a £20 million rough sleeping fund to help new rough sleepers, or people at imminent risk of sleeping rough, to get the rapid support they need to recover and move on from a rough sleeping crisis; a £10 million fund for social impact bonds to provide targeted support, over a different eight local authorities, for entrenched rough sleepers; and £20 million for local authorities to trial new initiatives to help people who are at risk of homelessness long before they reach crisis point. Across all three funds we are supporting 84 projects, encompassing 205 district and unitary authorities up and down the country, to ensure that more people have tailored support to avoid becoming homeless in the first place and have the rapid support they need to make a sustainable recovery from homelessness.

We know that a challenge for those who are homeless is access to tenancies in the private rented sector. That is why we announced at Budget funding of £20 million for schemes that will enable better access to new private rented sector tenancies or support in sustaining tenancies for those who are, or are at risk of becoming, homeless or rough sleeping.

On some of the specifics of the Department’s estimates for the 2017-18 financial year, our re-profiling of £9.1 million of the flexible homelessness support grant will enable us to support increased collaboration between London boroughs on the procurement of accommodation for homeless households, in particular with regard to temporary accommodation. The work required to set up a new procurement strategy and vehicle means that the funding cannot be spent this year, but will be required in 2018-19. A further £15.6 billion has been re-profiled for future years and preserved, so there is no reduction of the £25 million. There is also, specifically, £2 billion for housing associations to build social housing.

It is important that in allocating this funding we measure the effectiveness of our investment. To do that the Department, with the support of external partners, will be undertaking and publishing a range of evaluations of the different schemes we fund. More broadly, the Department, along with the DWP, will be undertaking new research into the drivers that cause homelessness and rough sleeping. That will enable us to better assess the impacts of Government intervention and inform future policymaking in this area.

We all know that money alone is not the answer. We need to be searching for new solutions to entrenched problems. This is why just last week I was proud to sign The Homelessness (Review Procedure etc.) Regulations 2018, which enact key provisions in the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 from 3 April 2018. I am sure Members will agree that the Act is a transformative piece of legislation that significantly reforms England’s homelessness legislation. Placing duties on local authorities to intervene at earlier stages is a key preventive step to reduce homelessness in local areas.

We are keen to ensure local housing authorities are equipped to deliver these changes. Last week, we launched our new “Homelessness Code of Guidance”, a comprehensive guide for local authorities on how to exercise new functions introduced by the Act, alongside existing statutory responsibilities. Of course, we have already agreed £72.7 million of new burdens funding, payable to all councils over the spending review period, and a commitment to review this going forward. I am exceptionally proud of the work that has gone into delivering these changes—the work of the Department and of my hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Mr Jones) before me—and as ever, I remain grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow East (Bob Blackman) for all his endeavours.

However, there is clearly more to do. As we prepare for the Act to come into force in spring, I am now chairing regular meetings of the new rough sleeping advisory panel that will feed into the Government taskforce on rough sleeping and homelessness, which is meeting next week. The advisory panel, which includes the Finnish Government adviser, Peter Fredriksson, is made up of leading experts in the field, who will share knowledge, expertise and experience to support me in the production of a rough sleeping strategy, which I can confirm, will be reported in July this year.

I look forward to the months of work ahead and with pleasure to the opportunities to update the House. therefore commend the estimates in the name of the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to be supported in the votes


To read the Hansard of the full debate, see here

Joe CoombesHomelessness