Chloe Smith hails ‘big step forward’ in tackling homelessness in Norwich

MP Chloe Smith has welcomed new legislation to reduce homelessnessPhoto: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

MP Chloe Smith has welcomed new legislation to reduce homelessnessPhoto: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire - Credit: PA

A Norwich MP has welcomed new legislation which she believes is a big step forward in tackling homelessness in the city.

Chloe Smith said the Homelessness Reduction Act – which came into force this week – will help tackle the causes of rough sleeping.

'My view is that any one person without a home is one too many,' she said. 'The new Homelessness Reduction Act came in to force this week. I am pleased it is supported by both Shelter and Crisis.

'This is a big step forward. One of the things within it that is particularly important is the prevention duty. It is an important safety net which means people can get help earlier if they seek support as soon as possible before they might go into critical need.

'I think this is a crucial step forward because it is about tackling the causes of rough sleeping. The government is rightly taking steps to help the most vulnerable and I hope this will help individuals in Norwich. It comes with funding as well which is significant.'

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But the Norwich North MP said it was difficult to quantify whether there had been a vast increase of rough sleepers in the region.

'It is very difficult to comment on an increase because of the way councils measure rough sleeping is only ever a snap shot of any one night,' she added. 'In fact homelessness peaked under the Labour government so it is unfortunate that people are trying to be political about this now.

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'I think it is incredibly important that we all do whatever we can to support people to get the homes they need. I support building more homes in Norwich. Although to some people it might be controversial to say we should build, I think it is obvious that people need homes.

'There are also things that need to be done to help people who are in immediate crisis. There are many factors as to why a person might be on the streets. And you have to treat a person as a person.'

But on the controversial topic of whether the public should give money or food to the homeless Ms Smith said that had to be a personal choice.

'It can be hard for people to know how to best help. Shelter and Crisis do a lot to help people and the Big Issue is an impressive organisation. There is a range of ways to help and people will make their own minds up.'

At last year's general election the Conservatives pledged to halve rough sleeping by 2022 and eradicate it altogether within a decade.

A pot of £72m over three years has been set aside by central government to help cash-strapped councils in England hire extra staff to cope with the new legislation.

Labour welcomed the move but shadow housing secretary John Healey added that more still needed to be done to build new homes and increase funding.

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