Rough sleeping

Meeting: 
MQT on 2013-06-19
Session date: 
June 19, 2013
Reference: 
2013/1971
Question By: 
Jennette Arnold OBE
Organisation: 
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
The Mayor

Question

In 2009 you pledged to end rough sleeping in London by 2012, but the housing crisis, high unemployment and changes to the welfare system are leading to more people sleeping rough, not less. How is your approach going to change so that we tackle this problem?

Answer

Answer for Rough sleeping

Answer for Rough sleeping

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Thanks, Jennette. Rough sleeping continues to be a serious problem but the real achievement of the London Rough Sleeping Group, formerly the London Delivery Board, is that so few people spend a second night out. More than 80% are now helped off the street before they spend a second night out. That is a great credit to the work that has been done. A lot of the rough sleepers, as I am sure you are aware, are coming from outside this city and indeed this country. I think a large proportion is from central and eastern Europe. It remains a serious problem which is why we are investing £33.8 million in rough sleeping services plus the Social Impact Bond to reward those who are able to help get rough sleepers off the streets and deal particularly with entrenched rough sleeping.

Jennette Arnold OBE (AM): Thank you for that reply and I am sure everyone in this room will welcome the work that is being done and the allocation of funds. I just want to focus with my follow up question on former rough sleepers in London.

Following the General Election, the Government increased the age threshold of the single room rate from 25 to 35, so this means that everyone 35 and under now only qualifies for a housing benefit for shared accommodation. You claimed you have successfully negotiated exemptions to this change for former rough sleepers. However, I have been informed by workers of charities in this area that the exemption is not being implemented properly because many boroughs are not aware of it and because of the level of proof of benefit claimants is so high. It means when you go to get this benefit it is very difficult for the claimant to then show where they have been for the last three months in terms of being homeless on the streets. In fact, the forms could be amended to make it easier. Are you aware of this?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Yes.

Jennette Arnold OBE (AM): If yes, what are you doing about it?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): The Rough Sleeping Group is working with we are aware and we think there is a problem to do with the advice that boroughs are giving. This is something actually I think Roger [Evans, AM] raised a while back or another Member raised a while back.

Jennette Arnold OBE (AM): It is across every constituency.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): It is across every constituency. We need to make sure that boroughs do more to give useful advice and help to people to prevent rough sleeping. We are not convinced that that is happening at the moment and the Mayor's Rough Sleeping Group, led by Rick Blakeway [Deputy Mayor for Housing, Land and Property], is focusing very hard on that. That is part of what we are trying to do with the funds that we have.

Jennette Arnold OBE (AM): Can I suggest that a letter from you to leaders and chief execs would be an act that you could do and that would be welcomed?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Yes. What I can certainly offer you, Jennette, today is I will write to you with an account of what we are doing to deal with that particular problem. But where I think we are being successful is in helping to get people off the streets after they have been there for the first night. It is a big problem. It is caused partly by inward migration. It is not necessarily caused entirely by changes to the benefit system, though I cannot exclude that that is also a factor, so there are lots of different aspects to it.

Jennette Arnold OBE (AM): So there is lots more work to do. Thank you.

Steve O'Connell (AM): Just to follow up that very good question because that had similarity to the question I asked

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Sorry. Forgive me, Steve. I am sorry. It was your question.

Steve O'Connell (AM): All this is really to say, when you write to Jennette, could you kindly copy that to me because I also have an interest in the same subject?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I will copy you in on that.

Steve O'Connell (AM): Thank you.