No new cash behind Government rough sleeping strategy, minister admits
There is no new money in the Government's £100m pledge to end rough sleeping by 2027, the Housing Secretary has admitted.
Ministers today unveiled a Rough Sleeping Strategy aimed at tackling soaring rates of homelessness.
The plan promises funding for mental health and substance abuse services in areas with the highest number of rough sleepers, as well as "intensive support" for people at the highest risk of homelessness, including those leaving prison or care.
It also commits to providing extra help for people preparing to move on from hostels and shelters.
But minister James Brokenshire confirmed that half of the money in the plan had already been committed to existing rough sleeping projects.
The other half of the £100m had, he acknowledged, been "reprioritised" from other programmes at the Ministry of Housing.
He told the BBC's Today programme: "Yes, some of this is reprioritised... It’s reprioritisation within existing budgets, on whether you have underspends and other issues such as that."
The minister added: "What I’m saying is that half of it has already been committed to homelessness and rough sleeping so that the other remaining half of this is money, that is new to rough sleeping and homelessness, on reflecting and recognising the priorities and importance we attach to this."
Labour seized on the admission by Mr Brokenshire, saying the strategy had "unravelled just hours after it was announced".
"It’s now clear there is no additional money for the Housing Department to tackle the crisis of rough sleeping," Shadow Housing Secretary John Healey said.
"Rough sleeping has more than doubled since 2010 thanks to decisions made by Tory Ministers, but this feeble plan lacks any urgency."
A coalition of housing charities that worked with the Government on the plan have given it a cautious welcome, however.
A joint statement from Crisis, Homeless Link, National Housing Federation, Shelter, St Basils, St Mungo's and Thames Reach called it "a significant step towards the government's goal of ending rough sleeping by 2027".
But they added: "We also need to see a reversal of policies that leave migrants homeless and destitute, and healthcare, mental health and substance misuse services that are available and truly accessible to those who need it."
The Local Government Association, which represents councils, also welcomed the plan as a "positive first step", but urged ministers to go "much further, much faster".
Conservative peer and LGA chair Lord Porter said: "Councils want to end all homelessness by preventing it from happening in the first place.
"This means allowing councils to build more social homes, reviewing welfare reforms and ensuring councils have the certainty, resources and tools they need to bring together services around people at risk of becoming homeless."
The latest official figures show that the number of people sleeping rough has risen by 169% - from 1,768 to 4,751 - since 2010.
Asked why homelessness had risen sharply since the Conservatives came to power, a spokesperson for the Prime Minister said: "There are a number of different reasons. It is a very complex matter but you will see from the package that was unveiled today that the Prime Minister is committed to addressing it.
"I think what you have seen set out this morning is a comprehensive package of measures to try to deal with the various issues across this subject matter.
"There are issues including drug abuse and the rise of the likes of spice - it’s a complex matter but we are committed to dealing with it."