HC Deb 05 March 1997 vol 291 cc635-6W
Mr. Congdon

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what Government funding is going to be offered in the areas invited by his Department and the Department of Health on 31 October 1996 to develop strategies to tackle rough sleeping. [19079]

Mr. Curry

The Government's aim is to ensure that there is no necessity for people to sleep rough. On 31 October last year, I announced that, following detailed evaluations in 23 areas which were co-ordinated by Shelter on contract to the Department of the Environment, funding would be offered to support expansion of the rough sleepers initiative to the London boroughs of Hammersmith and Fulham and Kensington and Chelsea, and to Brighton; and that a new rough sleepers revenue fund would be made available to support local strategies drawn up jointly by local authorities and voluntary sector agencies to tackle rough sleeping in Bath, Bournemouth, Cambridge, Ealing, Exeter, Leicester, Manchester, Nottingham, Oxford and Richmond upon Thames. I have received and considered strategies from each of these areas and have reached decisions on the projects which the Government will support. My Department, in conjunction with the Department of Health, has today written to each of the local authorities explaining these decisions in detail, and invitations to bid for funding will be issued shortly to voluntary sector organisations and housing associations identified in the strategies as potential providers of the services that we have agreed to fund. The Department of Health will be writing separately to local authorities about funding arrangements under the homeless mentally ill initiative.

My announcement on 31 October last year also referred to expansion of the existing central London rough sleepers initiative zones to encompass the W1 and W2 postal districts of Westminster. My Department is discussing separately with Westminster city council and local voluntary sector agencies the arrangements for this expansion, which may result in some extra funding for outreach and resettlement work.

I am pleased that each of the strategies includes existing or new projects provided by statutory and voluntary sector organisations. This local input is particularly important as a demonstration of the partnership approach that underlies the success of the rough sleepers initiative. In some areas, Government funding will be subject to clarification of the local authority housing contribution to the strategy.

This national programme of Government help is being targeted on areas where the most significant rough sleeping problems have been identified. Local authorities have an obligation to consider the housing needs of everyone residing in their areas, including people sleeping rough, and to reflect those needs in their general housing strategies. My Department has produced comprehensive guidance to enable local authorities to conduct detailed evaluations of the extent of rough sleeping in their areas and to develop effective strategies to tackle any problems that exist. The Government will consider offering funding to support local rough sleeping strategies in other areas where a major problem is identified.

I am pleased to announce that Ian Brady, deputy chief executive of homelessness charity Centrepoint, will be joining my Department on secondment to promote the development of local rough sleeping strategies, in liaison with local authorities and other voluntary sector agencies. This combination of measures is designed to ensure that there is no necessity for anyone to sleep rough in England.

Copies of my Department's letters to each of the areas being offered funding, including summaries of the strategies and the Government's response, have been placed in the Library.

Forward to