Directors in the Caritas network in England and Wales have joined the Salvation Army’s representation to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, expressing concern that many of those who sheltered as part of the Government’s ‘Everyone In’ initiative during the first Covid-19 national lockdown in 2020 have remained without more permanent accommodation. The long-term support needed to tackle the complex reasons for their homelessness, like mental ill health, fleeing domestic violence and addictions, have still to be put in place.
Among signatories to the letter were CSAN Chief Executive Dr Philip McCarthy; Normandie Wragg, CEO of Nugent; Mark Wiggin, Director of Caritas Salford; Andy Keen-Downs, CEO of Pact, and Ben Gilchrist, CEO of Caritas Shrewsbury.
Full text of the letter
As we approach Christmas, our immediate priority must once again be to safely accommodate everyone, especially as the temperatures drop. We welcome the Government’s announcement of the new Protect Programme, which provides an additional £15 million to help source emergency accommodation for people sleeping rough. However, we must not lose sight of our long-term aim to end rough sleeping for good. With this in mind, we ask that the Government use the upcoming one-year Spending Review to continue its recent and much-needed investment in homelessness and rough sleeping across 2021/22.
During the first lockdown, the Government’s initial response to bring ‘everyone in’, was a remarkable feat and showed just what can be achieved with concerted effort. This quick action, undoubtedly saved lives. It meant that nearly 30,000 people were protected from the pandemic with an offer of emergency accommodation. The introduction of the Rough Sleeping Accommodation Programme (RSAP) will also provide crucial housing and support to ensure that people do not have to return to the streets. However, there is much more work to be done to ensure there are sufficient, sustainable housing and support options for everyone who finds themselves sleeping rough, or at risk of doing so, over the coming months and years. There are, for example, over 10,500 people still living in emergency accommodation, such as hotels, who need permanent housing.
We are battling these challenges at an increasingly difficult time, as the numbers of people sleeping rough remain high: the latest Combined Homelessness and Information Network (CHAIN) figures recorded 3,444 people sleeping rough in Greater London between July and September 2020, of which 11% were under-25. A concerning, 55% of these were new rough sleepers, many of whom will have lost stable accommodation as a result of the wider economic downturn caused by the pandemic.
After years of underfunding, which saw levels of homelessness and rough sleeping rise substantially across the 2010s, 2020/21 has seen investment increase significantly in response to the outbreak of Covid-19. The introduction of the RSAP has also seen a positive move towards multi-year funding settlements. Yet, despite this, we’re still none the wiser about what will happen to the majority of homelessness and rough sleeping investment programmes beyond the end of March 2021. To resolve this uncertainty and ensure that the progress that has been made so far is not squandered, the Government should make a significant investment at the one-year Spending Review this month.
The spending round must ensure that (at the very minimum) this year’s level of investment of £700 million in homelessness and rough sleeping is maintained across 2021/22. However, since 2008, nearly £1 billion has been cut from what councils spend on homelessness every year, and so we believe that there is a strong case for Government to begin replacing this lost investment full. As a result, the Government must consider increasing its investment in homelessness and rough sleeping to £1 billion in 2021/22. This will lay the foundation for the necessary secure, multi-year investment required at the Comprehensive Spending Review, when it is convenient to hold one. The Government has a real shot at achieving its manifesto aim of ending rough sleeping by the end of the current Parliament. The Spending Review is the chance to prove its ongoing commitment to this aim and solidify the successes that have already been achieved.
Picture credit: Mark Elliot (source)