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Baroness Hanham moved Amendment No. 4:

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this amendment is grouped with Amendments Nos. 6 and 7. The amendments seek to provide amplification on the face of the Bill as regards with whom the local authority should consult in assessing the resources available from all sources in order to implement the housing review and the homelessness review; namely,

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those from whom specific action may be required and those who should participate in the consultations before the review is adopted. I know that the Minister will argue that it is unnecessary as the bodies I have specified are already implicit in the legislation. However, if only some groups and organisations are mentioned on the face of the Bill, then it is anomalous not to mention them all.

Again, I am sure that the words used in the draft code of guidance will be mentioned. However, the interpretation of legislation is made easier if it is explicit and mandatory. That is what I seek to achieve with the amendments. I beg to move.

Lord Sheppard of Liverpool: My Lords, I hope that noble Lords will treat me with some forbearance if I have a little to say about Clause 2 as well as about Amendment No. 4. Illness kept me away from your Lordships' House for most of last year and I was not able to take part in the earlier deliberations on this Bill, which I very warmly welcome.

Clause 2 spells out how a central purpose in the Bill is to be achieved. It imposes an obligation requiring local housing authorities to take a more strategic and multi-agency approach to the prevention of homelessness. All of us who have worked in the neediest areas of our cities know that we need all the allies that we can find. I hope that local housing authorities will make the most of the allies described in the clause and the amendment. The clause speaks of social services,

    "other public authorities, voluntary organisations and other persons".

The amendment wants us to spell out on the face of the Bill what "other persons" should mean—all categories of landlord. I hope that landlords will be drawn into planning and partnership with local housing authorities, but I am not sure that they need to appear on the face of the Bill. "Other public authorities" could be spelt out, too, including, for example, health authorities, prisons and the probation service.

I want to say something about the contribution that voluntary bodies make to the prevention of homelessness. Last month, I was delighted to receive from Liverpool a report entitled Homelessness and the Diocese. It reports on a project that was launched after I retired. In partnership with the Church Army, the diocese appointed a homelessness officer. The project offers a great example of how voluntary bodies can act as bridges, bringing together different allies. Public grants to voluntary bodies give good value for money, drawing in a wide range of resources.

The homelessness officer in Liverpool, Ralph Upton, is a Church Army captain. He writes:

    "There are no specifically Anglican projects in the diocese—all are partnerships with other Church or secular bodies".

They include ROC in St Helen's; the Salvation Army citadel joint project in Bootle; Adulam Homes; and, in the Roman Catholic archdiocese, Nugent Care and the Bond Scheme. Those projects build bridges across which unexpected volunteers can bring practical help to homeless people. When I went to be Bishop of

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Liverpool, I learnt to cease to mock the Mothers' Union, a strong and useful body. I was delighted to read in the report that the diocesan Mothers' Union had provided over 700 toiletry packs every year for refugees, asylum seekers and other homeless people.

Other parts of the voluntary movement in the frontline of helping homeless people in Liverpool include the Whitechapel Project, Petrus and the Merseyside Accommodation Project, which I remember visiting. The Merseyside project works through the rather traditional, old-fashioned idea of having landladies who offer supported lodging to 16 to 18-year olds. It is very effective.

Ill health often marches hand in hand with homelessness. The homeless outreach team of the Liverpool Area Health Authority reports that half of the 223 people found sleeping rough in Liverpool at various times over two years were found to have mental health problems. In St Helen's and Knowsley, the director of public health welcomed the approach from the diocesan homelessness officer. He raised with her the issue of the gap in healthcare provision for the homeless people who attended the ROC centre in St Helen's. She said that they discussed the need for a GP to attend the centre on a sessional basis, along with a chiropodist, a dentist and a nurse practitioner. They also discussed whether a health visitor could come occasionally to give health education. She said that health action zone funding was identified and that some staff had put themselves forward enthusiastically to become involved.

The Government identified those leaving prison as a priority group. The Church Army captain to whom I referred came to his present post after years as a prison chaplain. He speaks of the high number of people who have been in care who are in prison and in the homeless community. He works in partnership with the chaplains and staff at Liverpool prison, Hindley young offenders institution and Ashworth hospital. The National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders tells us that prisoners released homeless are twice as likely to reoffend as those who have a home. Prisoners who have no family support are between twice and six times as likely to reoffend. The Government's Headstart scheme has made money available at Hindley, and three prison officers are now working full-time on the resettlement and rehabilitation of those young offenders.

Should all the categories of landlord appear in the Bill? I hope that local housing authorities will make serious attempts to draw them in. The strategic multi-agency approach should also mean that the National Asylum Service should be required to provide information to local housing authorities. My brief tells me that Liverpool City Council is almost powerless to help. Refugees and asylum seekers are hidden behind the confidentiality of private agreements between NAS and private landlords. Nobody is prepared to tell the city council where those people are, and some of them have been the victims of dreadful housing provision.

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Whether we make the Bill work effectively will depend on the attitude of local housing authorities. The report Homelessness and the Diocese tells me that one council has been good to work with. It is open and readily shares information, and the head of its rough sleepers initiative is also manager of the two direct access hostels. She values church input and other voluntary input. The report says that working with another local authority has not been such a positive experience. Most contact has been on its terms, when its wants something, and it tends to withdraw behind confidentiality.

I hope that local housing authorities will welcome the Homelessness Bill and take on with a good heart their obligation to adopt a multi-agency approach to the prevention of homelessness.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I welcome the intervention of my noble friend Lord Sheppard of Liverpool. We missed him at Second Reading and at Committee stage. He has a huge amount to offer, because of his experience in Liverpool. I shall underline three points that my noble friend made. First, there is a need for alliances, if we are to make the Bill work; secondly, the attitude of local authorities will determine how effective the Bill is; and, thirdly, multi-agency working is vital to making the Bill work. All of us would agree about that. but other examples would include the probation service, voluntary organisations working with young people or with those suffering from mental health problems.

An authority's strategic approach to tackling homelessness will, of course, be effective only if it is exercised in co-operation with the organisations in the authority's area that provide services and assistance to homeless people. I assure the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, that there will be clear guidance on the organisations with which authorities should engage in the carrying out of homelessness reviews and formulating strategies, but it would not help—indeed, it would be harmful—to prescribe some but not others.

We all agree that working in partnership is vital, that the attitude of local authorities will be central and that they should be encouraged to work with the people in their area who can be most effective as regards homelessness. In the light of that, I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Hanham: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. I, too, appreciate the intervention of the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Sheppard. He has great experience and it was good to hear his voice.

I am seeking to spell out on the face of the Bill not all of those who will be involved in homelessness but those who will be required to provide housing. It is inconceivable that the Housing Corporation, with its ability to provide housing accommodation, and local registered social landlords—and, indeed, landlords in the private sector who are already co-operating with local authorities—should not be statutorily required to help with this very major problem.

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I sense that I shall not move the Minister. I well understand the wider implications of who should be involved, but I still believe that all of those housing bodies should be included on the face of the Bill. None the less, I sense that I shall not get any further and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

4 p.m.

Clause 3 [Homelessness strategies]:

[Amendment No. 5 not moved.]

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