Homelessness and Covid-19: Next Steps

The Government has recently announced plans to support rough sleepers during and after the pandemic, including a specialist taskforce. Various charities have also published recommendations for preventing a spike in homelessness once the ‘lockdown’ ends.

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On 14 May 2020, Lord Bird (Crossbench) is due to ask Her Majesty’s Government “what plans they have to support people who were previously homeless into permanent housing after the COVID-19 pandemic”.

Recent announcements by the Government

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 can “move into long-term, safe accommodation once the immediate crisis is over”. It also stated that councils across England would receive £1.6 billion in additional funding to help respond to Covid-19 pressures across all services.

Initial response to the Covid-19 outbreak

In March 2020, the Government took steps to reduce the impact on those who are, or who are at risk of, sleeping rough. It announced £3.2 million of emergency funding to help rough sleepers self-isolate. Later that month, the Minister for Local Government and Homelessness, Luke Hall, set out the Government’s response to Covid-19 and rough sleeping. He also gave instructions to council leaders, including asking them to urgently secure accommodation for people on the streets. The Government has since stated that over 90% of rough sleepers known to councils have now been offered accommodation.

Previous government work on rough sleeping

In its 2019 manifesto, the Government pledged to end rough sleeping by the end of the current parliament through an extension of the rough sleeping initiative (RSI), the housing first approach and using local services to meet the health and housing needs of those living on the streets. In January 2020, it announced allocations of a £112 million RSI fund for local councils for 2020/21.

Prior to this, Theresa May’s Government published a Rough Sleeping Strategy in August 2018 which was backed by £100 million of funding for two years. Published that December, the Rough Sleeping Strategy: Delivery Plan then provided an update on progress in implementing the strategy’s 61 commitments and information on next steps. In September 2019, the Government published its Impact Evaluation of the Rough Sleeping Initiative 2018, which recorded some successful outcomes.

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