HC Deb 15 January 2003 vol 397 cc666-7W
Mrs. Calton

To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what plans he has to meet the housing needs of(a) homeless children and (b) families with children living in poor housing. [88540]

Mrs. Roche

Homeless children under the age of 16, are the responsibility of social services. Under the homelessness legislation, as amended by the Homelessness (Priority Need for Accommodation) (England) Order 2002 and the Homelessness Act 2002 which both came into force on 31 July 2002, local housing authorities in England must ensure that suitable accommodation is available for children aged 16 or 17 who are homeless through no fault of their own (unless they are a relevant child for the purposes of the Children Act 1989 and the responsibility of social services).

In terms of supporting families with children, in March 2002 the Government announced a commitment that by March 2004 local authorities shall ensure that no homeless family with children is in a Bed and Breakfast hotel (B&B) other than in an emergency, and even then for no more than six weeks.

High B&B using councils have been required to submit action plans on how they intend to meet this commitment. The Homelessness Directorate is working closely with these and other lower using councils on delivery of these action plans. This has been supported by a £35 million grant programme in 2002–03 together with changes to housing benefit subsidy implemented by the Department for Work and Pensions.

For 2003–04 the Homelessness Directorate will allocate up to a further £15 million to help authorities meet the March 2004 B&B commitment.

On 3 December, I announced that the Government intends to outlaw the use of B&Bs for homeless families except in an emergency. The Government will be consulting in due course on options for strengthening the homelessness legislation by Order and through statutory guidance to: end the use of privately owned B&B establishments as temporary accommodation for homeless families with children except in emergencies and even then for no more than six weeks; set minimum accommodation fitness and proposed management standards in all temporary accommodation used by local authorities to house homeless households; set additional fitness standards for shared facility (B&B) type privately owned temporary accommodation used by local authorities to house homeless households.

The Government has set a target to bring all social housing up to a decent standard and to increase the proportion of private housing occupied by vulnerable groups that is in a decent condition by 2010.

The Government has also announced a new house-building programme worth more than £1.2 billion, up £365 million on the current year. The extra funds have been allocated to the Housing Corporation's Approved Development Programme (ADP) and should deliver up to 21,000 affordable homes in 2003–04.