CONSERVATIVE
New Forest East

HOMELESSNESS & MENTAL HEALTH – 2 July 2001

Dr Julian Lewis: I congratulate the Secretary of State [Stephen Byers] on his new position. He referred briefly to mental health. Does he accept that a high proportion of people who are out on the streets are suffering from mental health problems and that that has something to do with the policy, followed by successive Governments, of closing institutions where people with mental health problems could find refuge? Has he consulted his colleagues in the Department of Health about whether joint work by the two Departments can help people in that situation?

[Mr Byers: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his congratulations on my appointment. Perhaps for the first and last time in this Parliament, I agree with the points that he made. The record of care in the community and the way in which we dealt with people with mental illness do not do credit to previous Administrations of both political persuasions. The hon. Gentleman is right to point out the need for joint working between housing authorities, local authorities and authorities that have specific responsibilities for people with mental illness. I shall talk a little bit about joint working arrangements later, but I certainly endorse the broad thrust of the hon. Gentleman's remarks.]