Jamie Driscoll urges government to ensure rough sleepers don’t return to streets after lockdown
North of Tyne Mayor Jamie Driscoll has urged the Government to ensure emergency measures to end rough sleeping continue once the lockdown is over.
The Government’s £3.2 million “Everyone In” scheme has helped get 4,500 rough sleepers off the streets, often by housing them in hotels.
But it’s unclear how long the policy will last, or what will happen once it’s over.
The Government plans to allow hotels to re-open in early July.
Mr Driscoll has joined forces with Labour leader Keir Starmer and four other mayors to write a joint letter to the Government.
They said: “The Government has rightly committed to protecting vulnerable rough sleepers for the duration of the pandemic.
“However, the dedicated funding to house rough sleepers is set to run out and no clear plans or resources have been put in place by Government for what happens next.
“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.”
They added: “When this crisis is over, we cannot return to business as usual. Rough sleepers, some of whom are receiving support for the first time, have been brought safely off the streets. We cannot let that progress go to waste.
“This is an unprecedented opportunity to ‘build back better’ and avoid a return to business as usual. If the government is serious about its commitment to end rough sleeping, now is the time to act.”
The statement was also signed by Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London; Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester; Steve Rotheram, Mayor of Liverpool City Region, and Dan Jarvis, Mayor of Sheffield City Region.
The Government launched the emergency funding in March, in an effort to get every rough sleeper off the street so they could self-isolate to reduce the spread of Covid-19.
And it temporarily changed the rules so that councils could house people classed as having “no recourse to public funds”.
This generally means their leave to enter or remain in the UK is conditional, or they donot have leave to enter or remain.
Official figures put the number of rough sleepers in the North East at 67 last year. This is based on a count of rough sleepers organised by local authorities, and it’s generally accepted that the true figure is likely to be higher.
The Government has denied reports that the emergency funding is due to come to an end. However, it’s also declined to say whether more money will be made available.
The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government points out that it had already committed £489 million in 2020 to 2021 to help rough sleepers, a £121 million increase in funding from the previous year.
A spokesperson for the Ministry said: “Councils should be proud of their efforts to get rough sleepers off the street, backed by an unprecedented continued package of government support.
“We have been clear councils must continue to provide safe accommodation for those that need it and provided £3.2m at the start of the pandemic so they could take immediate action and help rough sleepers off the street.
“Our new rough sleeping taskforce – spearheaded by Dame Louise Casey – will work with councils across the country to ensure as many rough sleepers as possible can move into long-term, safe accommodation.”