HC Deb 01 May 2001 vol 367 cc593-4W
Ms Buck

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what action the Government propose to take to reduce the numbers of homeless households being housed in Bed and Breakfast accommodation; and if he will make a statement. [160120]

Mr. Raynsford

The reasons behind the increased use of Bed and Breakfast are complex. I am therefore setting up a specific Bed and Breakfast Unit to look at what more can be done to help get people, particularly families with children, out of Bed and Breakfast and into more appropriate accommodation.

We believe that people have a right to decent accommodation especially when at their most vulnerable. At the moment almost 10,000 homeless households are in Bed and Breakfast accommodation. I have told this House in the past that this figure is unacceptable. The Government have a clear policy on the use of Bed and Breakfast accommodation for homeless families with children: it should be used only as a last resort. As well as the high financial costs of Bed and Breakfast, there are unquantifiable social costs in terms of health, education and lost employment opportunities.

Many authorities are successful in minimising their use of Bed and Breakfast accommodation. I appreciate and commend local authorities' efforts in these areas. However, the circumstances and the performance of local authorities vary and some are struggling to meet their statutory duties on housing homeless people.

The new Unit will look at developing solutions to help these authorities reduce their use of Bed and Breakfast. The Unit will be small and have a limited lifespan of two years to reflect the specific nature of its remit. It will be led by someone with hands-on experience and will work closely with existing bodies and practitioners from local authorities, RSLs and voluntary agencies. One of the Unit's key tasks will be to disseminate existing good practice to help authorities implement or pilot new ideas. It will help local authorities to set targets where appropriate, and to develop implementation programmes to meet those targets. As well as providing advice and support, the Unit will also influence wider debates and ensure that people working on regeneration and other related projects take into account the impact of their work on homelessness.

Housing families in Bed and Breakfast is good for no-one—it is expensive, it is inadequate and it has unacceptable long-term effects. I am convinced that by working together we can find ways of reducing this unhelpful dependence on Bed and Breakfast accommodation.