THE Government has awarded a grant of £1.9 million to six projects intended to improve the health of people sleeping rough.
Each project involves partnerships between local authorities and NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), with two located here in the North of England.
Funding has been awarded to projects in Leeds and Newcastle, as well as the London boroughs of Lambeth and Westminster, West Sussex, and Portsmouth. They are expected to launch in February next year and run for 12 months.
According to the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG), the projects will test and evaluate models that improve access to health services for people who have both mental ill health and drug and alcohol dependency needs – who are currently experiencing or at risk of returning to rough sleeping.
What is learned from these projects will be used to help to inform national policy and local commissioning of health and support services.
In Leeds, specialist teams will work on the street to support and co-ordinate the care of those experiencing rough sleeping. In Newcastle, meanwhile, projects include placing nurses and other specialist staff, such as care coordinators, in homelessness services to provide wrap-around and intensive support. All the projects have been informed by people who have lived experience of rough sleeping.
“It is vital that people who experience rough sleeping get access to the health services they need,” said Rosanna O’Connor, director of drugs, alcohol, tobacco and justice at Public Health England. “This grant is funding promising projects that will test models that help people who experience rough sleeping with substance dependency and mental ill health get the treatment and support they need.
“People sleeping rough on the streets have often been through very traumatic experiences and desperately need to receive appropriate treatment and follow up care. They should be able to look after their health problems instead of facing a ‘revolving door’ situation while their health deteriorates.
“The six projects being awarded funding all explore different approaches to supporting those experiencing rough sleeping. They will help us learn more about what works in improving access to treatment that is right for them and I look forward to the findings.”
People who experience rough sleeping have much poorer health than the general population. Many have both mental ill health and substance misuse needs, physical health needs, and have experienced significant trauma in their lives.
In 2018 there were an estimated 726 deaths of homeless people in England and Wales, according to official statistics; an increase of 22% since 2017. This was driven largely by a significant increase in the number of deaths related to drug poisoning.
The numbers of people experiencing rough sleeping have increased by 165% since 2010, and on a single night in Autumn 2018 4,677 people were recorded as sleeping rough in England.
NHS England has recently announced that it will be providing £30 million in additional funding for specialist mental health services in parts of the country with the highest levels of rough sleeping. At least 20 areas are expected to receive this funding by 2023 to 2024.
“Everyone should have a roof over their head and access to the care they need, no matter who they are,” said Nadine Dorries, parliamentary-under-secretary of state at the Department of Health & Social Care. “We are determined to stamp out the injustice of rough sleeping once and for all, but in the meantime we are committed to ensuring rough sleepers are supported with their health issues.
“This funding will help better equip local authorities to protect society’s most vulnerable, and ensure no one slips through the net.”