§ Mr. Stephen Ross
asked the Secretary of State for the Environment when he anticipates being in a position to publish his report on the first six months working of the Housing (Homeless Persons) Act 1977.
§ Mr. Armstrong
As foreshadowed in my reply to the hon. Member's Adjournment debate on 25th May, statistics based on returns from English housing authorities for the period 1st December 1977 735W to 31st March 1978 are being published today. We are also publishing statistics for the last period before the Act came into force—1st July to 30th November 1977. Some comparisons between the first quarters of 1976, 1977 and 1978 are included. Copies are being placed in the Library of the House (reference DOE Press Notice 429).
The conclusions that can be drawn from the results for just one four-month period are necessarily limited. Moreover, the statistical system for recording information on homelessness was modified from 1st December, and the results from this system are not strictly comparable with those for earlier periods. Figures on the number of applications to authorities have hitherto proved unreliable; the present figures therefore relate to those homeless households for whom authorities accepted a responsibility to secure accommodation.
Nevertheless, it is clear that the Act has got off to a good start and that local authorities are increasingly accepting responsibility for securing accommodation for homeless households, so ensuring that help is reaching those who need it.
From January to March 1978 local authorities secured accommodation for about 12,000 households who were homeless or threatened with homelessness, compared with about 8,000 households during the same period in 1977.
It is encouraging that authorities have been able to help more people who are in the priority categories and in urgent need. The great majority—70 per cent. —of households accepted had dependent children; there were also significant numbers in other categories, notably pregnant women—10 per cent. Over 75 per cent. of households were living in the same area a year before they became homeless and there has been relatively little use of the provisions for transfer of responsibility from one authority to another. The interim use of hotel accommodation is more marked in London than elsewhere. Local authorities have made little use of the provision on intentional homelessness, which limits any obligation to secure accommodation in priority cases to a period which the authority considers will give the household a reasonable opportunity to secure accommodation.736W
We are continuing to monitor the legislation, both by the statistical returns made by authorities, and by research projects; additional information will be made available in due course. The Joint Charities Group concerned with homelessness have prepared a report on the first four months since the Act came into effect, and this and other aspects will be discussed with representatives of the local authorities when the Department reviews the operation of the Act later in the year.
§ Mr. Stephen Ross
asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he will have discussions with the Republic of Ireland Government to initiate procedures for reciprocity in respect of priority cases arising under the Housing (Homeless Persons) Act 1977.
§ Mr. Armstrong
We are closely monitoring the implementation of the Act. The results would not support the action proposed by the hon. Member.