Government urged not to miss a "once in a generation" opportunity to support rough sleepers
Hackney Council has called on the Government to deliver meaningful change for rough sleepers, as a task force is established to look at the next steps in providing support and accommodation for the thousands of rough sleepers currently housed in emergency accommodation.
Hackney worked fast to offer all rough sleepers in the borough emergency accommodation. During the pandemic many rough sleepers who have previously not engaged with the Council before have started to accept support and work with staff. The Council wants to ensure this work is not undone as the lockdown is lifted.
While the number of people sleeping rough in Hackney had already been falling in recent months due to investment in additional outreach, Covid-19 and the focus on ‘everyone in’ has enabled us to engage with people who previously had been reluctant to take up offers of support. This gives us a unique opportunity to deliver meaningful life changes for some of our most entrenched and at risk rough sleepers.
Over the coming months we have a real opportunity to support people off the streets for good, but councils cannot do this alone. It’s absolutely vital that the government listens to local authorities and other organisations working on the frontline to support some of our most vulnerable residents, and does not waste this once in a generation chance to make meaningful changes.
In a letter to Dame Louise Casey, who is leading the Government task force, Mayor of Hackney Philip Glanville and Deputy Mayor Rennison have called on the Government to consider three key priorities:
No recourse to public funds
The Government has to be prepared to discuss the status of rough sleepers with no recourse to public funds. At the moment there is no route out of rough sleeping for this cohort. For those able to work, including EEA citizens for whom housing benefit is linked to employment, we need funding that allows for accommodation coupled with employment support that can provide a ladder back into work and housing. For those whose immgration status precludes work, we need investment that allows for specialist provision by charities that can support individuals with their immigration status, a process that can take months with funding needed both for advice, and for accommodation during this process.
There has to be a commitment to provide the additional funding required by local authorities and partner organisations. Everyone working to support rough sleepers knows what is needed to deliver meaningful change but this comes at a cost. The level of outreach and support required, the integration with services and the investment in both short and longer term accommodation. None of this can be done on the cheap - we welcome recent investment from the Government in services for rough sleepers, some of which we have benefited from here in Hackney. However, we have been concerned at the initial levels of direct funding for responding to the needs of rough sleepers during the Covid-19 pandemic, of which Hackney received just £10,000. Significant investment will be needed if we are to deliver on the vision shared by both the Government and local authorities to end rough sleeping.
There has to be an integrated approach, working with health partners. The multiple factors that result in an individual sleeping on the streets are complex, often involving a combination of mental ill health and substance addiction and in many cases linked to previous experience of trauma. This is especially the case for those entrenched rough sleepers we now have an opportunity to support. While housing is certainly critical, many of the individuals we work with have no chance of sustaining a tenancy without intensive support from a wide range of services, and accommodation is only one small part of that process. We have been working locally to embed joint working on everything from hospital discharge to substance misuse services to provide a joined-up package of support, built around the individual rather than the service.
For more information about support available for rough sleepers in Hackney visit hackney.gov.uk/rough-sleepers