James Brokenshire approves Housing First pilot projects for rough sleepers

The new Housing Minister tells The Big Issue that Boris should stay and talks the Irish border

James Brokenshire has greenlit three Housing First pilot projects in his first act as Secretary of State for Housing.

The Bexley MP, who stepped into the role vacated by new Home Secretary Sajid Javid following Amber Rudd’s resignation at the end of last month, awarded £28 million worth of funding to bring the approach – which sees rough sleepers given permanent housing alongside support for complex needs – to the UK.

Previously announced by Chancellor Philip Hammond in last year’s Budget, the government will give £25.3m to the three regions with £7.7m heading to Liverpool, £8m to Greater Manchester while the West Midlands will receive £9m. Brokenshire told The Big Issue that the remaining £2.7m will be “for contingency that is built in to the programme for assessment and external evaluation” of the scheme.

Housing Secretary Brokenshire said: “I am pleased that my first action as Secretary of State for Housing has been to approve Housing First in these particular areas to provide a new approach to help those who are rough sleeping.

“We know that the causes of rough sleeping are varied and Housing First will give people housing alongside the support they need to get off the streets and rebuild their lives.”

DID YOU KNOW…

There are currently around 1,450 Big Issue sellers working hard on the streets each week.

Originally introduced in New York, Housing First has proven to be a tried and tested approach in Europe with at least eight out of 10 people involved in the scheme successfully exiting homelessness. The success rate is far higher than with a hostel-based accommodation approach, which has seen in between 40 and 60 per cent of users with complex needs leave projects before their homelessness is resolved.

In fact, Brokenshire’s predecessor Javid headed to Finland last year to see the approach in person and has proved pone of the driving forces bringing it to the UK.

And he stressed that he is keen to work with the newly formed Rough Sleeping Advisory Panel to work towards a preventative approach to work towards the government’s aim of eradicate rough sleeping by 2027.

“There are significant issues but ultimately this comes down to building more homes,” said Brokenshire. “The challenge is how to get things built and how to build the affordable homes that the country desperately needs and I have to continue to listen to prepare new ideas.

The Homelessness Reduction Act has come into force recently and we are trying to provide people with the support that they need in the first place and that is just one of the new ideas and proposals that we can bring.”

The former Northern Ireland minister also pledged his support for the Irish border to remain open as the Brexit date looms larger – and Boris Johnson should stay in his role as negotiations continue ahead of next March.

The Foreign Secretary has appeared at odds with Prime Minister Theresa May in recent days after blasting her customs partnership option plans, claiming they would create a “whole new web of bureaucracy”.

But Brokenshire said: “I would like to see us retain that open border and that certainly can be done because it is important that we continue to negotiate with our European partners. The isle of Ireland is a special place and I am very fortunate to have been able to get to know it in my time as Northern Ireland minister so I would like to see that open border and the Good Friday Agreement preserved.

He added: “As the Prime Minister has said in recent days, we are committed to leading the customs union negotiations to retain the best deal for the country and I’m quite sure that the foreign secretary will continue to work positively and get the trade deals that the country needs and that remains the focus of the government going forward.”