I recognise your concern with this Act, specifically in regard to its provisions for rough sleepers. As a piece of legislation that is almost 200 years old, it is right that the Government is undertaking a review into the Act to ensure it is fit for purpose.
As you might be aware, under the Cross-Government Rough Sleeping Strategy published in 2018, the Government committed to review legislation around homelessness and rough sleeping, including the Vagrancy Act, to ensure the best measures are in place. It is my understanding that the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has noted that this is a complex issue and are looking at all the options. The Government is currently finalising the conclusions of the review and will provide an update shortly.
I am, however, heartened that the Communities Secretary, Robert Jenrick, has stated his belief that the Act should be repealed, noting that it is an antiquated piece of legislation whose time has been and gone. I completely support this view and I look forward to the Government’s update on the matter.
On the issue of rough sleeping, I am delighted that work continues in this area to ensure vulnerable people are helped off the street for good. In March of this year, the next phase of the Rough Sleeping Accommodation Programme (2021/22-2023/24) was launched. This will enable local authorities and registered providers to bid for a share of up to £212 million to provide move-on homes and accompanying support services to people rough sleeping or those with a history of rough sleeping.
Originally announced in May 2020, the Government committed £433 million to this programme which aims to provide 6,000 homes to achieve a sustainable reduction in rough sleeping. This represents the largest ever investment in longer-term move on accommodation for this group and will provide some of the most vulnerable in society with a place to live and help them to rebuild their lives.
Everyone deserves a home to call their own and affordability is key to ensuring people can do so. I welcome the Government's commitment to building 300,000 new homes of all tenures each year by the mid-2020s, and great progress has been made with over 240,000 homes delivered in 2019-20 - the highest number in over 30 years.
I recognise that the needs of people who sleep rough are diverse and significant. A survey published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government found that 82 per cent of respondents who had slept rough in the last year had a mental health vulnerability, 83 per cent had a physical health need, and 60 per cent had a substance misuse need.
I am encouraged that the Government is tackling this head-on, by delivering £52 million this financial year to provide substance misuse treatment for people who are sleeping rough. This will provide the specialist support that so many individuals need to rebuild their lives and move into long-term housing. The Department of Health and Social Care is also investing £30 million in the NHS Long Term Plan to support specialist mental health services for people sleeping rough.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
Craig Whittaker MP