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Homelessness and prevention dominates Theresa May’s PMQs farewell

The outgoing prime minister tangled with Jeremy Corbyn over rough sleeping figures – but maybe they should ask Ross Kemp

Theresa May has bowed out with her final Prime Minister’s Questions – and her record on prevention and homelessness was high on the agenda.

The outgoing Prime Minister, who will be replaced by Boris Johnson later today, was quizzed by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn on how her government has tackle rough sleeping.

May insisted that she was “Pleased to say that we have seen rough sleeping going down in those areas where this government has taken action” as well as referring to targets of halving rough sleeping in 2022 and ending it by 2027.

In opposition, Corbyn, insisted he “doesn’t know where the Prime Minister gets her figures from on rough sleeping”.

He had earlier listed a number of issues that have risen in May’s premiership, including homelessness, in conjunction with chants of “up” from his party.

He said: “I travel around this country just like other members of this house and I talk to people who have had a disaster in their lives and end up rough sleeping. We are the fifth richest country in the world, it is surely wrong that people should end up rough sleeping in this country. We can and should do something about it.”

May was referring to the official rough sleeping count, which recorded a two per cent decrease in those found sleeping on the streets in England last year.

However, those figures are widely disputed by homelessness experts, charities and Ross Kemp.

The ex-EastEnders star’s new documentary on homelessness – Ross Kemp: Living With Homelessness – airs on ITV tomorrow night.

He told The Big Issue that there needs to be a significant change in how rough sleepers are counted before the government can get to grips with the issue.

“With homelessness, when you’re told it has gone down – if you ask any person they’ll all say it’s gone up because they’ve seen it,” he said.

“Reading that there was a two per cent drop in rough sleeping when I see 11 to 12 people every day didn’t fucking add up, and it still doesn’t add up because you can’t count them the way (Homelessness Minister) Heather Wheeler wants to count them.”

We are the fifth richest country in the world, it is surely wrong that people should end up rough sleeping in this country

Meanwhile, another core principle of The Big Issue is prevention and that was the item of interest for Homelessness Reduction Act architect Bob Blackman, who asked the PM “if she agrees that prevention is better than a cure”.

May pointed to her NHS Long Term Plan as well as the prevention green paper released earlier this week. She said: “I agree that we do need to start seeing health as an asset that we need to protect throughout our lives, that is why we have taken strong action on smoking and obesity.”

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