HC Deb 26 July 1993 vol 229 cc698-9W
Mr. David Atkinson

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement of policy on the homeless outside London, including the young homeless and the discharged mentally ill.

Sir George Young

The aim of reducing homelessness underlies all the Government's housing policies. We have taken steps to increase the supply of low cost housing where it is needed. The public resources available to housing associations, the main providers of new social housing, increased from £935 million in 1989–90 to £1.8 billion in 1993–94, making some 54,500 new homes available this year. The housing market package announced in the autumn statement last year has been a considerable success, providing an extra 18,000 housing association homes in 1992–93, as well as releasing local authority and housing association houses for reletting by enabling their present tenants to become home owners. In addition, the temporary relaxation of the rules governing local authority receipts, for the period November 1992 to December 1993, gives local authorities greatly increased spending power.

Under section 8 of the Housing Act 1985, local authorities have a duty to assess the housing needs of their area and, in their role as enablers, can use their housing and planning powers to stimulate activity by housing associations and the private sector to meet those needs. In the latest guidance to local authorities on the housing investment programme (HIP) round, greater emphasis is also being placed on the development of a strategic housing role by authorities, to encompass all the housing needs and resources of the area. It is for individual local authorities to decide whether schemes to help young homeless people are appropriate to the needs of their area and, in the light of their resources and commitments, the priority to attach to such schemes.

My Department also gives grants under section 73 of the Housing Act 1985 to voluntary sector organisations which help single homeless people. This financial year we have made available £6.45 million to 170 projects—130 outside London—that provide direct, practical help to single homeless people. Seventy nine of these projects help young people secure accommodation, and provide advice, training and continuing support.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State of Health is, through the single homeless young people initiative, funding 14 projects specifically designed to help young people outside London who are homeless, or in danger of becoming so.

Health authorities have an obligation to ensure that appropriate arrangements are made for any necessary continuing care, including drawing up an individual care programme, before mentally ill people are discharged. The evidence we have is that homeless mentally ill people sleeping rough are not those who have been recently discharged from long-stay psychiatric hospitals.