HC Deb 17 February 1997 vol 290 cc419-20W
Mr. Sykes

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what plans he has to encourage local authorities to assess levels of rough sleeping in their areas and to develop strategies to tackle any problem that they identify. [16303]

Mr. Curry

Under the rough sleepers initiative, my Department has encouraged and assisted head counts of people sleeping rough in a number of areas. Following the Government's announcement in March 1996 that they would continue the rough sleepers initiative in central London and extend it to Bristol, my Department commissioned Shelter to co-ordinate evaluations of the level of rough sleeping in 23 areas where some evidence of a problem had been mentioned in consultation with local authorities and other statutory and voluntary sector agencies. The evaluations were conducted during June and July 1996 and Shelter's report to the Department informed the Government's decisions, announced on 31 October, Official Report, column 187, to expand the rough sleepers initiative in London and extend it to Brighton; and to offer financial support from a new rough sleepers revenue fund for strategies to tackle rough sleeping in 10 other areas.

As part of that announcement, I said that the Department would publish guidance to help all local authorities to assess the extent of rough sleeping in their areas and to develop effective strategies to help people sleeping rough. I am pleased to announce publication today of that guidance, which is being made available free to all housing authorities and voluntary sector agencies working with people sleeping rough. Copies have been placed in the Library.

My Department's housing strategies guidance to local authorities advises them that they should aim to make it unnecessary for anyone to sleep rough within their area and that they should aim to provide a strategic framework of assistance covering all the agencies involved in meeting the needs of single homeless people, including people sleeping rough. That guidance advises local authorities to consider undertaking a count of rough sleepers to assist in assessing local needs. I hope that local authorities for areas in which rough sleeping problems exist will make use of the more detailed guidance published today. The Government will consider extending funding under the rough sleepers initiative and the rough sleepers revenue fund to areas where the guidance has been followed, where major rough sleeping problems have been demonstrated and where local authorities take a lead in developing joint statutory and voluntary sector strategies to tackle rough sleeping.