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Largan column: 'Positive progress on tackling homelessness'

In his latest column, High Peak MP Robert Largan talks about a recent visit to see youngsters sleeping outside to raise money for a local homeless charity and what's being done to address the issue across the country.

I recently visited a group of local teenagers who were doing their National Citizen Service (NCS). The NCS is a government-funded personal and social development programme founded in 2011. It’s targeted at 16 and 17 years olds, giving them a taste of independent living and the opportunity to learn a variety of skills, as well as take part in social action in their local community.

As part of their service, the teenagers were sleeping outside in Buxton to raise awareness and money for High Peak Homeless Help.

They were a remarkable group of young people and it was lovely to spend some time with them, wish them luck with their GCSE results (which they got the next morning) and bring them some snacks to help make their sleepout go a little quicker.

I’m pleased that we’re making progress on homelessness. In 2020, their was a 37 per cent fall in rough sleeping compared to 2019, making it the third year in a row during which the count of rough sleeping has declined. That’s encouraging but more needs to be done.

At the beginning of the pandemic, the government launched the ‘Everyone In’ initiative, supporting everyone sleeping rough to move into self-contained accommodation. This initiative undoubtedly saved lives.

I am very glad the government have learned from the success of 'Everyone In' and are working to build on it and ensure the most vulnerable in our society are protected.

Safe accommodation is at the heart of helping vulnerable people off the street. The ‘Next Steps Accommodation Programme’ has been introduced to cover property costs and support new tenancies for 15,000 vulnerable people.

The next stage of the Rough Sleeping Accommodation Programme was launched in March this year, with £212 million made available to councils and housing associations to bring forward move-on accommodation and support for rough sleepers as well. Allocations for the Rough Sleeping Initiative have been announced for 2021-22, with a total of £203 million made available - an 81 per cent increase on last year's funding.

Over £750 million in funding has been made available for 2021-22, which will support frontline services through the Rough Sleeping Initiative and enable local authorities to fund their statutory duties to prevent homelessness, for example, through the £310 million Homelessness Prevention Grant.

There is also funding toward interim and long-term accommodation, relief for charities and additional winter funding. There is also significant funding for drug and alcohol treatment services, which is vital in making long term progress.

There is positive progress but I’ll keep on at the government to ensure tackling homelessness and eliminating rough sleeping remains high on the agenda.

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