Speech

Homeless Link conference 2015

Marcus Jones' speech to the Homeless Link conference.

Marcus Jones MP

I am delighted to be invited to speak today. This is my first address to the homelessness sector, and I want to start by saying thank you.

I look around this room, and I see individuals who day in and day out dedicate themselves to giving vulnerable people the help and support they need to become independent.

For these people, the services that you provide really are a lifeline. Never forget that. It’s why you get out of bed in the morning.

And I’ve already seen the impact these services have on helping people make the journey off the streets.

Last month, I visited Thames Reach’s Employment Academy in Camberwell. It was fantastic to see first hand the inspiring work they do to help people out of homelessness and towards employment.

There, I met a woman called Natsuba. It was her first day on Thames Reach’s painting and decorating course – Moving In, Moving On. For her, this was the first step towards a new career in interior design. But it was also an even bigger step up the ladder towards moving out of a hostel and into her own place.

There is no doubt that being homeless impacts on every aspect of a person’s life.

No one should be in this frightening situation – especially some of society’s most vulnerable people.

When a housing crisis happens, the lucky ones have the support, resilience and resources to get back on their feet.

But of course, this is not always the case. And for these people, you make a real difference.

That is why, since 2010, we have invested over £500 million to support you to prevent and tackle homelessness and rough sleeping.

To put it in perspective, this funding has supported local authorities to prevent over 730,000 households from becoming homeless.

That is almost three-quarters of a million households helped to stay in their home or move to a new one.

Our strategy for tackling rough sleeping and single homelessness has 3 main strands - prevention, intervention and recovery.

Prevention

We want local authorities to work better together and to work with the partners like health, Jobcentre Plus and probation services so we can prevent people from becoming homeless in the first place.

To give this impetus, we have introduced the £8 million Help for Single Homeless Fund. Thirty-four local authority partnerships, representing around half of all councils, have received the funding. This will enable them to offer support to around 22,000 people.

Intervention

The public are often keen to help when they see people on the streets but do not know how. We wanted to make sure that the public could fully play their part. This led to the development of StreetLink.

Since December 2012, StreetLink has received over 29,000 referrals from concerned members of the public for councils to investigate.

As a result, over 12,000 rough sleepers have been found and connected with local services. And of these, over 2,000 have secured accommodation outcomes.

The key is to get people off the streets as quickly as possible so that they do not become entrenched.

That’s why we have supported the national roll out of No Second Night Out through the Homelessness Transition Fund.

And we know that it has already had a real impact. In 20 key areas outside London, over two-thirds of rough sleepers only spent 1 night out. Of these, the majority did not return to the streets.

We have also invested £5 million in the world’s first homelessness Social Impact Bond.

Run by the Greater London Authority, it is helping turn the lives around of 830 of London’s most entrenched rough sleepers.

90% of these individuals were not seen on the streets in the last quarter. Not only that, but nearly half have achieved accommodation, reconnection or employment outcomes, thanks to the support of Thames Reach and St Mungo’s Broadway.

Like Yvonne, who has been given the confidence to take part in a community opera project since the Social Impact Bond supported her to move into her own flat.

And we have built on this approach by launching the £15 million Fair Chance Fund, which will help turn around the lives of 1,600 vulnerable young homeless people.

Recovery

Historically many single homeless people have problems finding accommodation in the private rented sector.

The Access to Private Rented programme, which we have funded Crisis to run, has already been a real success. It has helped over 9,000 people access and sustain privately rented accommodation.

Of these, over 90% have maintained tenancies for at least 6 months.

But 1 person without a home is 1 too many. And I do not under-estimate the challenges.

On any given day there are still over 2,700 people sleeping rough in England. And London is facing a sharp rise in non-UK national rough sleepers, a group who are often very difficult to assist.

The struggle to secure move on to sustained accommodation for many clients.

Ensuring that people get the right help they need when they first approach their local authority; and

the challenging financial climate as we continue to reduce the deficit.

I also recognise that there is more to do around how services for individuals with complex needs might be commissioned.

Very few of these individuals are in work or close to being employed. Many have alcohol or substance misuse problems. Some are living on the margins of society.

As well as the human cost, there’s also a monetary one too, through the chaotic use of public services.

This issue was a big focus of the Ministerial working group on homelessness, chaired by my predecessor Kris Hopkins, and I will be keeping up momentum on this work in this new Parliament.

I strongly believe that there should be a life beyond homelessness for these vulnerable individuals.

This is a tough environment, and addressing these challenges is not something that government can do alone.

We need to draw on your experience and expertise to improve the impact of homelessness services.

We all need to focus on what we can do to ensure that the sector and public services deliver the best for this vulnerable group of people.

This will need a more strategic approach. Over the summer, I intend to start this conversation by chairing a roundtable with Homeless Link and the sector.

I am interested in exploring 3 key areas.

First, prevention, and how we can best support people so that they do not become homeless in the first place.

Secondly, how we best bring services together using innovative funding mechanisms such as payment by results and social impact bonds, to deliver better outcomes for those that need our help.

And I have an added incentive here. Our manifesto committed to scale up the use of social impact bonds in homelessness. My department is already a world-leader – we have developed 2 – but I want to be more ambitious.

Thirdly, how we share best practice. I already know that there is a lot of excellent practice out there. For example in my own constituency, Doorway are working with vulnerable young people aged 16 to 25 to help them resolve their housing crises and prevent these from occurring in the first place.

But, I am not convinced that enough is done across the sector to share best practice and raise everyone to the level of the best. I want the bar set high.

There will be an instrumental part for you and Homeless Link to play in this. Where you are tackling old problems in new ways, you need to shout about it. It’s show and tell time.

But let me finish by coming back to the point I started with.

I know that it’s a tough environment. But you are doing fantastic work. You are changing lives. You are helping people get off the streets and back on their feet.

And I look forward to continuing to work with you, and with local authorities, to help those most in need.

For a start, I want to get out there and see the services that you deliver. Hear about the opportunities and challenges you face. Meet with clients to hear more about the impact of your work.

I have 5 minutes, and I’m happy to take 2 or 3 questions from the floor.

Published 7 July 2015