The government must continue its increased investment in homelessness services to avoid a post-pandemic surge in rough sleeping, according to a new report.
Ahead of this autumn’s Comprehensive Spending Review, the Kerslake Commission on Homelessness and Rough Sleeping has called for the government to maintain the levels of spending on rough sleeping reduction that have been seen during the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to an interim report, this would amount to an additional investment of £82 million a year on top of the government’s previous rough sleeping funding commitments.
The Commission argues that maintaining this additional spending, which supported last year’s successful Everyone In initiative, will be key to the government achieving its goal of ending rough sleeping by 2024.
“To deliver its manifesto commitment of ending rough sleeping by 2024, the government should adopt Everyone In as the shared ambition for the future and continue to treat rough sleeping as a public health priority,” the report reads.
“By common consent, Everyone In was a radical response to rough sleeping and the Comprehensive Spending Review provides an opportunity to embed it in the long term, as both a health and housing led approach.”
The report emphasises the success of the Everyone In initiative, which saw thousands of rough sleepers brought into emergency accommodation in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
37,000 individuals were brought into temporary accommodation according to the latest government data, while rough sleeping was slashed by 37% in a single year. 26,000 of the individuals helped by Everyone In have already moved into longer-term accommodation.
By treating rough sleeping as a public health issue, not just a housing issue, Everyone In saw a “substantial and increased engagement” from the health sector in rough sleeping, while the autonomy staff were given prompted “an increase in innovation and creativity in approach”, the commission found.
However, the initiative was undermined by local variation in delivery, while short-term funding was highlighted as a significant issue.
These challenges could leave rough sleeping services unprepared for a “new flow of people onto the streets” as unemployment and household debt grows and government support schemes come to an end, the report warned.
The Commission has therefore made a raft of recommendations to government ahead of this autumn’s Comprehensive Spending Review. These include providing increased funding for homeless services, making changes to the welfare system, and introducing a tailored approach for women, youing people and those with no recourse to public funds.
“Alongside providing adequate funding, the government needs to adopt policies on affordable housing and welfare support that will help prevent homelessness,” the commission warned.
“There will be additional costs involved, but preventing rough sleeping and homelessness, and responding to it quickly and effectively when it does occur, is a moral imperative and will bring with it substantial savings in the future.”
The report has been welcomed by London Councils, which has moved around 5,000 rough sleepers into settled accommodation since the launch of the Everyone In scheme last year.
Cllr Darren Rodwell, London Councils’ executive member for housing & planning – and a member of the Kerslake Commission – said: “There can be no doubt that ‘Everyone In’ was a gamechanger and a major success. The government not only provided a clear directive but also invested crucial extra funding into homelessness services and worked effectively in partnership with local councils, the voluntary sector, and others. Thousands of rough sleepers were brought off London’s streets in an impressively short timeframe, which undoubtedly saved lives.
“London boroughs want this work to continue and to do everything we can to help end rough sleeping altogether. The government shouldn’t lose sight of what made ‘Everyone In’ a success. We need longer-term commitments – especially in terms of funding for local services. Giving councils sufficient resources is essential for reducing rough sleeping on a permanent basis.”
A Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government spokesperson said: “Our decisive action through the internationally recognised Everyone In scheme has protected thousands of rough sleepers throughout the pandemic.
“We’re building on that success with the backing of an unprecedented £750 million investment this year – giving rough sleeping and health services the funding they need to help get people off the streets and into settled accommodation.”
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