The government is facing increased pressure to confirm its future plans for rough sleepers who have been given emergency accommodation during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Labour Party has urged the government to take what it has called a ‘once in a generation’ opportunity to end rough sleeping for good, as over 5,000 rough sleepers have so far been temporarily housed as part of the government’s ‘Everyone In’ policy.
In a statement, signed by Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, the shadow housing secretary Thangam Debonnaire and several Northern metro mayors, the party warns that dedicated funding to help councils house rough sleepers is set to run out, with ministers so far failing to commit to help those rough sleepers into longer-term accommodation.
The party said that rough sleepers risk ‘ending up back on the streets’ if the government fails to outline what it plans to do for rough sleepers once the pandemic is over.
Labour’s statement says: “The government needs to provide clarity on their ‘Everyone In’ policy, to include those made homeless during the lockdown, and certainty over the future funding arrangements. Without this we could see rough sleepers ending up back on the streets.
“We also need to see policy changes for those with no recourse to public funds, and changes to Local Housing Allowance and Housing Benefit. These changes will help us move rough sleepers into longer-term accommodation and provide wrap-around support to help them stay there.”
Labour’s warning comes a week after the government faced accusations that it had quietly pulled its funding for councils to house rough sleepers.
Last week, a report by the Manchester Evening News accused the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) of shelving its ‘Everyone In’ scheme, which was launched back in March to give £3.2m in funding to councils to house rough sleepers in hotels.
The story, based on a leaked Greater Manchester Combined Authority report and fiercely denied by government officials, said that councils have now been told they will no longer be funded to house rough sleepers beyond statutory requirements.
The government is now facing pressure from MPs to tackle the issue too, as a HCLG Committee report published today says it risks squandering a ‘golden opportunity’ to tackle rough sleeping if it doesn’t come up with a comprehensive COVID-19 exit strategy.
The interim report on protecting rough sleepers and renters has advised the government to dedicate at least £100 million a year to long-term housing support to make sure those currently housed in temporary accommodation do not return to the streets.
A MHCLG spokesperson stressed that the government is committed to ending rough sleeping once and for all.
The spokesperson said: “We’ve been clear councils must continue to provide safe accommodation – backed by an unprecedented £3.2 billion package of government support.
“Our new rough sleeping taskforce – spearheaded by Dame Louise Casey – has one overriding objective: to ensure that as many people as possible who have been brought in off the streets in this pandemic do not return to the streets. It will work closely with councils and charities to give the long-term support they need to rebuild their lives and move into stable, long term accommodation.”