Deaths of Homeless People

Richard Benyon Excerpts
Tuesday 1st October 2019

(11 months, 4 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
Luke Hall Portrait Luke Hall - Parliament Live - Hansard
1 Oct 2019, 1:43 p.m.

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his questions. There is no shying away from the statistics, which are heartbreaking. He is absolutely right that every person who has died on our streets is somebody’s brother, mother or sister. He will find no complacency in this Government. We are increasing funding next year by £54 million, which is a 13% real-terms increase. It is important to note that in the areas where we piloted the rough sleeping initiative we saw a direct fall of 19% in rough sleeping in the first year. Next year we are delivering 750 more staff and 2,600 more bed spaces.

The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to raise these issues. While visiting homeless hostels and shelters across the country over the past few weeks, I have been struck by the welfare issues that people have raised with me, especially those with complex and difficult needs, and by the complexity of navigating the system in order to get the right support. That is why we have designed a number of safeguards, including individualised support from Department for Work and Pensions frontline staff. It is important to note that we have also allocated £40 million next year for discretionary housing payments. There is a huge amount more to be done on affordable social housing. He is right to highlight the importance of the issue, which has been raised with me by homelessness charities time and again. We have made £9 billion available through the affordable homes programme, to deliver 250,000 new affordable homes.

The right hon. Gentleman is also right to raise the role of health services. We see in today’s statistics the impact of the high prevalence of drug and alcohol abuse. That is why the support that we are putting forward as part of the rough sleeping strategy, including £2 million to test community-based health models to help rough sleepers access services, including mental health and substance abuse support, is vital. I look forward to working with him, and indeed with every Member of the House, as we try to tackle this hugely challenging issue for our country.

Richard Benyon (Newbury) (Ind) Hansard

The number of rough sleepers in Newbury has dropped from the mid-30s to nine as of last week. That is nine too many, but that drop has been achieved by an enormous effort from local community groups, but also by statutory bodies such as West Berkshire Council using Government money, for example from Housing First and Making Every Adult Matter, to really bring down the numbers. The Minister will know that dealing with the hardest to reach—that is really what we are talking about in this urgent question—is about trying to get them the medical attention they need. Will he make every effort to work with his colleagues in the Department of Health and Social Care to ensure that GP surgeries and other health bodies are as open as possible to receiving rough sleepers and ensure that they are directed to where their serious problems can best be dealt with?

Luke Hall Portrait Luke Hall - Parliament Live - Hansard
1 Oct 2019, 1:44 p.m.

Absolutely, and I thank my right hon. Friend for raising these important matters. I pay tribute to the local organisations and voluntary bodies in his community that are working so hard to support homeless people and rough sleepers. Housing is part of the solution, but he is quite right to highlight that health services have a hugely significant role to play, alongside other public services. It is right to highlight the £30 million that NHS England is providing for rough sleeping over the next five years, specifically to tackle some of the high instances we have seen in today’s statistics. He is absolutely right and we will continue to make that money available.