Winter rough sleeping plan

Protect programme

On 5 November 2020, England went into a second national “lockdown”. The lockdown restrictions required people to stay at home, except for a limited set of reasons, and ordered non-essential shops and hospitality venues that didn’t operate a takeaway service to close. On the same day, the Government launched its ‘Protect programme’, a new scheme intended to help vulnerable people, including rough sleepers, during the period of national restrictions and throughout the winter. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that the lockdown restrictions will end on 2 December 2020.

Announcing the Protect programme, Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said:

As the new national measures come into force, I am launching the Protect programme to ensure councils are offering everyone sleeping rough on our streets today somewhere safe to go—protecting people from the virus and moving forward with our goal of eliminating rough sleeping.

Mr Jenrick stated that £15 million had been allocated to the programme to support local authorities’ (LAs) existing work to provide accommodation for rough sleepers during the Covid-19 pandemic. Mr Jenrick said the scheme would help “areas that need additional support the most”. Areas with high numbers of rough sleepers are to receive extra “targeted” support to provide accommodation for people sleeping rough. The programme is scheduled to continue until March 2021. The top ten areas to receive additional funding through the programme are:

  • London
  • City of Bristol
  • Brighton and Hove
  • Cornwall
  • Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole
  • Manchester
  • Salford
  • Oxford
  • Leicester
  • Birmingham

In response to the announcement, Chairperson of the Local Government Association James Jamieson welcomed the extra funding. Jon Sparkes, chief executive of the homeless charity Crisis, also expressed some support for the scheme. However, Mr Sparkes cautioned that the “money will quickly run out”. He stated that the extra support funding for 10 areas of the country “isn’t nearly as extensive as what we saw in March” 2020. He called on the Government to “build” on the current support for rough sleepers and make sure that everyone helped through this scheme “will have a permanent place to call home when this emergency is over”.

Cold Weather Fund

A new £10 million cold weather fund was launched in October 2020. It is available to all LAs and is in addition to the funding provided through the Protect programme.

The aim of the cold weather fund is to support councils get rough sleepers off the streets during the winter by helping them to provide more self-contained accommodation. The fund was first launched in 2018. It was set up to improve access to the private rented sector, provide space in existing supported housing projects and fund more emergency accommodation for rough sleepers. The Government states its purpose is to quickly support vulnerable people off the streets through the winter.

Rough sleeping initiatives launched during the Covid-19 pandemic

The Government has stated that the Protect programme will run alongside the other schemes it has launched to help rough sleepers during the Covid-19 pandemic.

‘Everyone In’ initiative

During the first England-wide lockdown, which began on 23 March 2020, the Government launched the ‘Everyone In’ initiative. The aim was to support LAs in bringing all rough sleepers off the streets and into appropriate accommodation during the pandemic. On 17 March 2020, prior to the lockdown, the Government announced £3.2 million in emergency funding for local authorities to help those sleeping rough during the Covid-19 outbreak.

On 26 March 2020, Dame Louise Casey, who was then the Government’s rough sleeping advisor, wrote to LAs and homeless charities calling on them to ensure all those sleeping rough were “inside and safe by the weekend”. She said that “what we need to do now is to work out how we can get everyone in”. On the same day, Minister for Rough Sleeping and Housing Luke Hall wrote to local authority leaders to set out plans to protect rough sleepers. Mr Hall asked LAs to urgently accommodate all rough sleepers by the end of the week. Mr Hall instructed them to focus on providing adequate facilities so that people could follow guidance on hygiene and isolation.

In response, LAs in England worked to secure accommodation for those who were sleeping rough or who lived in accommodation where it was hard to self-isolate. In April 2020, the Government reported that over 90 percent of rough sleepers known to LAs at the start of the pandemic had been offered accommodation as a result of the initiative. In May 2020, the Government stated that a total of 14,610 people in England who were sleeping rough or at risk of sleeping rough had been provided emergency accommodation in response to Covid-19.

Next Steps Accommodation Programme

On 2 May 2020, the Government announced that a specialist taskforce had been created to “lead the next phase of the Government’s support for rough sleepers during the pandemic”. It said that Dame Louise Casey would lead the taskforce and work with councils on plans to ensure rough sleepers could “move into long-term, safe accommodation once the immediate crisis is over”.

On 18 July 2020, Robert Jenrick launched the Next Steps Accommodation Programme (NSAP). The Government has stated that the aim of the programme is to ensure rough sleepers and those at risk of rough sleeping are helped into longer term accommodation. Councils and their local partners could apply for funds from the programme to cover property costs and support new tenancies for around 15,000 vulnerable people who were provided with emergency accommodation during the pandemic.

The programme was split into two types of funding:

  • Shorter term/interim accommodation and immediate support: £105 million in funding for local authorities in 2020/21 to enable them to provide interim accommodation and support to the approximately 15,000 vulnerable people who were provided with emergency accommodation. It can be used to help people move into the private rented sector, extend or secure alternative interim accommodation or, where possible, help people to reconnect with friends or family.
  • Longer-term move-on accommodation: £161 million in 2020/21 to provide 3,300 units of longer-term, move-on homes for those currently housed in emergency accommodation. This is part of the funding announced in the March 2020 budget for rough sleeping services over a four-year period. The total funding is £433 million, with the aim of putting 6,000 new housing units into the system over the next four years.

Bids for funding from the NSAP had to be made by 20 August 2020. On 17 September 2020, Mr Jenrick stated that 274 local councils would share £91.5 million of funding for interim accommodation and support for the most vulnerable. On 29 October 2020, the Government announced allocations to local partners to deliver long-term move-on accommodation. The Government stated that more than 3,300 new long-term homes for rough sleepers across England had been approved, subject to due diligence, funded by more than £150 million. These will be available by the end of March 2021.

In August 2020, it was reported that Dame Louise Casey would be stepping back from her role in the taskforce.

How many rough sleepers have been helped during the pandemic?

The Government has reported that over 29,000 rough sleepers and other vulnerable people had been supported between March and September 2020, with over 10,000 people in emergency accommodation. It stated that nearly 19,000 people had been provided with settled accommodation or move-on support

Speaking about the schemes to support rough sleepers during the pandemic, Mr Jenrick stated:

Our Everyone In plan is widely considered the most effective action taken by any country in the world to protect those sleeping rough from the pandemic. And that work hasn’t stopped—29,000 rough sleepers and other vulnerable people have been supported into safe accommodation since the start of Covid-19. The next step in our mission is to ensure they have a more settled home. Which is why we are providing over £150 million, as part of the biggest ever investment in homes for the homeless

However, speaking during a debate on the issue, Shadow Secretary of State for Housing Thangam Debbonaire questioned whether the funding provided through the Protect programme was sufficient. She said the programme provided neither the “leadership nor the funding” to ensure all rough sleepers have a Covid-secure place to stay. Ms Debbonaire pointed to the fact that funding through this scheme was not available to all LAs. She also argued that during the pandemic many people had returned to sleeping rough, and “thousands more” were “newly” homeless.

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Cover image by Dan Burton on Unsplash.