HEALTH chiefs in Greater Manchester have agreed to provide £1.5 million to support the city region’s efforts to deal with rough sleeping.
The money from the NHS will go towards funding GM mayor Andy Burnham’s A Bed Every Night scheme for the next 12 months.
Since it was launched in November 2018, it has helped around 1,650 people into emergency accommodation.
The decision to provide funding was made by the Joint Commissioning Board (JCB) earlier this week. It consists of elected members, clinicians and officers from each of the combined authority’s 10 boroughs.
The JCB has committed £1 million to the scheme, bolstering £500,000 that was earmarked for helping rough sleepers earlier this year. The combined authority described this latest funding decision as a “demonstration of the power of devolution” and the “potential of joined-up public sector working”.
The decision essentially endorses the view that rough sleeping isn’t just a social issue, but also a health problem adding to the burdens faced by health and social care services — prevention being better than cure.
“People who are forced to sleep on the streets will suffer serious damage to their physical and mental health. The time has come for the homelessness crisis to be declared a public health emergency that requires decisive action,” said Burnham.
“I am deeply grateful to the NHS here in Greater Manchester for stepping forward to back our drive to end the need for rough sleeping by taking our response to a new level. It is in keeping with the NHS founding mission of helping those in greatest need and recognising that without good housing you cannot have good health. It also signifies part of the wider approach being taken in our city-region to move from a treatment model of care to one focused on prevention.
“Crucially, the investment will enable us to improve A Bed Every Night provision so that it better meets the needs of those who access it. This will include improving the quality of accommodation, offering training to front line staff and volunteers and improving signposting, screening and assessment into relevant health services.
“This is devolution in action – public services here in Greater Manchester working collaboratively, identifying what needs to be done and collectively raising the quality of what we are able to offer to those who require our support.”
The funding is believed to be the largest ever NHS investment in prevention of homelessness and rough sleeping, the combined authority said. In addition, the Health & Social Care Partnership is considering a further £500,000 contribution in the coming days.
Other agencies including the police and Ministry of Justice (MoJ) have also committed to financially support the rough sleeping approach; Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) plans to invest in A Bed Every Night to reduce the risks to ex-offenders of rough sleeping and the associated risks to local communities across the city-region.
The overall package of investment is said to “signal a significant shift” in strategic approach from a model delivering emergency provision to one with prevention at its heart.
The JCB’s new funding will help to “enhance” the quality of provision as A Bed Every Night enters a new phase. The aim is to allow people sleeping rough to gain better access to healthcare services while ensuring “consistently high standards” of help and support from the charities and organisations which provide emergency accommodation.
Healthcare services that can be sign-posted through A Bed Every Night include:
- Registration with a GP practice, allowing access to a variety of healthcare services provided by a wide range of professionals including nurses and doctors
- Management of chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease and breathing problems
- Support to deal with substance, drug and alcohol misuse
- Mental health services
“Sleeping rough is quite clearly immensely damaging to a person’s health and risks making existing mental health difficulties or physical problems much worse,” said JCB-member Dr Ruth Bromley, who is a GP and clinical lead for homelessness in Manchester.
“Too often our hospitals see the impact when people forced to sleep on the streets turn up at A&E at a point where their health has become very poor, or they have had some sort of crisis.
“We want to be able to support people sleeping rough before they get to that point. Through NHS services we can provide the longer-term help to prevent people sleeping rough from becoming unwell and we can work with them to improve their health.
“But it is very difficult for people to get that help if they are on the streets, which is why this investment makes sense.
“This is the right thing to do morally, professionally and financially. We are here to provide health services for everyone, but in particular those with the greatest need. Paying greater attention to prevention will ultimately be the key to reducing both the level of homelessness and the cost to the public purse.”