On the 19th December the Bishop of St Albans, the Rt Revd Alan Smith asked a question he had tabled to Government on homelessness:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what action they plan to take to address increasing homelessness and demand for temporary accommodation.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government and Wales Office (Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth) (Con): My Lords, we are embarking on an ambitious programme in relation to homelessness which places prevention right at its heart. We are implementing the most ambitious legislative reform in decades—the Homelessness Reduction Act—and we have allocated over £1 billion to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping, through to 2020. This includes a flexible homelessness support grant, which local authorities can use strategically to tackle homelessness in their areas, including for the provision of temporary accommodation.
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: I thank the noble Lord for his Answer. Night shelters and homelessness charities in my diocese are speaking about the huge pressure they are currently under. National Audit Office statistics suggest that the problem has increased nationally from 1,800 rough sleepers in 2010 to 4,000 this year. Given that rise, do Her Majesty’s Government consider that local authorities will have sufficient funding to meet their legal obligations under the Homelessness Reduction Act, which the Minister just spoke of, when it comes into force next year?
Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth: My Lords, first, I thank the right reverend Prelate for all that he does in his diocese. I know that the St Albans Sleepout on Friday 1 December—which was not actually at the cathedral this year because of building work—does much to publicise and tackle this problem in St Albans. He is absolutely right that this has become a more serious problem. It is now affecting rural as well as urban areas of England. That is why we have put this very much at the centre of the Government’s and department’s thinking, with the aim of reducing homelessness by 50% by 2022 and eliminating it totally by 2027. We have put resources into this: £50 million was announced very recently.