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Stortford's MP calls for action against homelessness in House of Commons debate

Mark Prisk MP. (6895385)
Mark Prisk MP. (6895385)

Bishop’s Stortford’s MP Mark Prisk has spoken out about homelessness during a House of Commons debate.

The Conservative former business minister intervened after Preet Kaur Gill, the shadow minister for international development and Labour member for Birmingham Edgbaston, asked Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government James Brokenshire what steps his department is taking to reduce the death rate among homeless people.

On Monday last week (January 28) she told him: “Official figures released by the Office for National Statistics just before Christmas shockingly revealed that 597 people died homeless in England and Wales in 2017—an increase of 24% over the last five years. With further cold weather expected, will the Secretary of State back Labour’s £100m-a-year plan to make cold weather emergency accommodation available for every rough sleeper in every area?”

Mr Brokenshire said: “As I have already indicated, one death is one too many. That is why we are committed to taking action across the board; I pointed to the £100m rough sleeping strategy. At times like this when we have colder weather, we have also allocated an extra £5m over and above some of our additional work with short-term capacity to support councils to ensure that we are actually giving the help that is needed to some of the most vulnerable in our society.

“I do agree that we require more social housing. That is why we have our affordable housing programme. We have also already taken off the restrictions on councils in England to enable them to borrow to build a new generation of council homes.”

Mr Prisk intervened: “Homelessness is rising, and that is why we need action to stop it reaching the peak levels that we saw under the last Labour government. What progress is being made to ensure that all councils—not some, but all councils —are taking the preventive approach envisaged in the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017?”

Mr Brokenshire responded: “Local authorities have received an additional £72.7m to implement the act, and the homelessness advice and support team has been providing support. But we need to ensure that more is done and we will certainly be reviewing the implementation of the act by March next year.”

A consultation on East Herts’ future strategy on homelessness to ensure that support and accommodation is available has just been completed by the district council.

Last year the council's housing service accepted homelessness applications from 54 households. The most common priority categories were households with dependent children or pregnant women, vulnerability as a result of mental health problems and vulnerability as a result of physical disability.

Effective action and early intervention are among the key objectives in East Herts Council's plans to prevent homelessness in the district.

The strategy also aims to ensure that accommodation and support is available for people who become homeless in East Herts.

Cllr Jan Goodeve, executive member for housing, said: "Homelessness and poor housing conditions blight lives, damage health and reduce opportunities. They negatively impact communities in significant ways. That's why preventing homelessness is a priority for the council."

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