£105m to keep rough sleepers safe during pandemic

£105m to keep rough sleepers safe during pandemic

Interim housing for thousands of rough sleepers taken off the streets during the pandemic is to be provided, ministers have announced.

The additional £105m will be used to support rough sleepers and those at risk of homelessness into tenancies of their own, including through help with deposits for accommodation, and securing thousands of alternative rooms already available and ready for use, such as student accommodation.

The funding unveiled takes the total amount provided this year by government to support rough sleepers and those on the brink of becoming homeless to over half a billion pounds.

The Government-led drive has brought together councils, charities, the private hospitality sector and community groups with the joint aim of protecting some of the most vulnerable people in society from COVID-19, and helping them turn around their lives and get them off the streets for good. It has come during one of the most challenging periods we have ever faced as a nation.

The announcement comes as plans to provide 6,000 long-term, safe homes continue at pace, to ensure the work being done to take society’s most vulnerable off the streets during the pandemic has a lasting impact.

Last month, the Government unveiled transformative plans to support thousands of rough sleepers currently housed in emergency accommodation to move on to more sustainable, long-term housing, with 3,300 additional supported homes to be provided this year.

A further £16m is also being provided so that vulnerable people currently in emergency accommodation can access they specialist help they need for substance misuse issues, in order to rebuild their lives and move towards work and education.

Housing Secretary, Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP said: “In recent months, I have seen a huge effort across the country to keep almost 15,000 vulnerable people off the streets. This has been vital to ensure their safety during the peak of the pandemic and has changed the lives of thousands for the better.

“The additional funding announced will allow us to continue to support these individuals — giving them access to the accommodation and support they need now while we continue with plans to deliver thousands of long-term homes in the coming months.

“Together, this takes the funding provided by government for vulnerable rough sleepers and those at risk of becoming homeless to over half a billion this year — an unprecedented commitment as we move towards ending rough sleeping for good.”

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Steve Barclay MP commented: “It’s vital we do everything we can to support the most vulnerable people in society — especially during challenging times like these.

“This funding will not only mean that thousands of rough sleepers continue to have a roof over their head, but it also provides a platform to unlock new opportunities to improve their lives for the better.

Chair of the COVID-19 Rough Sleeping Taskforce, Dame Louise Casey said: “‘Everyone in’ has been an extraordinary effort from councils, charities and many others to provide a safe haven for almost 15,000 homeless people who were either on the streets or at risk of rough sleeping during this COVID-19 pandemic. I want to thank again the hotels and other providers who have opened their doors to some of the most vulnerable people in society at this most difficult time.

“We now have an extraordinary opportunity to help keep them in and turn their lives around if we get the next steps right. I am clear that there can now be no going back to the streets as people begin to move on from the emergency accommodation that has been put in place.”

The Government is committed to ending rough sleeping by the end of this Parliament, and has taken unprecedented steps to protect thousands of vulnerable rough sleepers and those at risk of becoming homeless through the pandemic, including:

  • Working collaboratively across government, and with councils, health providers and charities, to offer emergency accommodation to almost 15,000 vulnerable people known to councils at the beginning of the pandemic.
  • Accelerating plans to put in place over 6,000 new supported homes as a landmark commitment to end rough sleeping — backed by £433m of government funding — with 3,300 of these becoming available in the next 12 months.
  • An initial £3.2m given to councils at the beginning of the pandemic so they could take immediate action to support rough sleepers off the streets, and a further £3.2bn of additional funding to help with the immediate pressures councils are facing.
  • The creation of the new Rough Sleeping Taskforce — led by Dame Louise Casey — which will lead the next phase of the government’s support for rough sleepers during the pandemic.

Calls for councils to keep 100% of Right to Buy receipts
Responding to £105m of funding announced by the Government to help keep rough sleepers safe and off the streets, Cllr David Renard, the Local Government Association’s Housing Spokesman, said: “We are pleased the Government has announced further much-needed funding to help councils continue supporting rough sleepers and keeping them off the street.

“Many rough sleepers are likely to have complex support needs, and so the money to tackle substance misuse will enable drug new ed and alcohol treatment providers to continue supporting people as we look to move them into long-term housing.

“Councils want to take this opportunity to change the lives of our most vulnerable residents and have already been working up plans to support people to move on from emergency accommodation.

“Since the start of the coronavirus crisis, we have seen an incredible effort by councils to get the overwhelming majority — nearly 15,000 — of rough sleepers and homeless people into housing.

“We would now like to see the Government follow this announcement by temporarily removing the No Recourse to Public Funds condition during the current crisis to reduce public health risks and pressures on homelessness services by enabling people to access welfare benefits.

“In addition, allowing councils to be able to keep 100% of receipts from Right to Buy sales and extending the deadline to spend the money to at least five years, will allow councils to get on with the job of building the new homes that people in their areas desperately need.”

Welcome investment that recognises challenging health issues
Responding to the Government announcement of money to tackle rough sleeping and substance misuse, Cllr Tom Beattie, Vice Chair of the District Councils’ Network, commented: “This funding is welcome investment and also recognises the challenging health issues many people sleeping rough face.

“Councils, landlords, charities and other partners have worked hard to keep rough sleepers off the streets and are doing all they can to avoid people becoming homeless.

“It is really important that the housing crisis is at the centre of the Government’s exit strategy, as part of its recovery effort to support people as we come through this pandemic.

“This new funding needs to also be accompanied by other long-term measures to prevent homelessness, such as permanently lifting housing benefit for tenants in private rented housing, increased funding for councils to prevent homelessness, and to invest in a renaissance of council house building to create homes, jobs and growth.”

Header image ©elavuk81/AdobeStock.

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