At the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis the Government and Local Authorities took decisive action to get rough sleepers off the street and into accommodation. The ‘Everyone In’ scheme offered funding to Councils to provide emergency shelter for homeless people and as a result, 5,400 rough sleepers were housed, mainly in hotels.
The ‘Everyone In’ initiative could have been a stepping stone- an opportunity to support many homeless people into permanent accommodation. Instead, the government quietly wound up the scheme last month.
Jeff Smith said “The number of homeless people has increased dramatically over the last ten years as austerity has hit the most vulnerable hardest and local authorities’ budgets have been cut. A post-pandemic recession could force yet more people onto the street.
“We need action from the government in three areas now to prevent this crisis getting worse:
1) Certainty over funding. The Government is yet to refund Local Authorities for the cost of the original ‘Everyone In’ scheme and there is great uncertainty over whether they will honour their pledge to refund Councils the full cost of dealing with the crisis. The Government need to act decisively on this to guarantee the money spent so far and the funding still needed to deal with the crisis.
2) Support for Local Authorities getting people off the street. Many long-term rough sleepers face a number of obstacles getting and holding down tenancies, such as mental health issues, addiction or historic debt. Tailored support is needed in each of these cases and the government needs to give local authorities the funding they need to provide wrap round support for people who face these barriers as they move into accommodation. The Government also needs to invest in fixing the housing crisis. Over the last ten years, successive coalition and Conservative governments have cut funding for social housing and created more loopholes for developers to wriggle out of their obligation to provide affordable housing. This needs to be reversed.
3) Measures to prevent homelessness. The suspension of evictions is welcome but Labour have called on the government to bring forward its plans to abolish Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions to provide security for renters. Labour have also put forward a number of measures to help renters in this time of national crisis. These include scrapping the 5 week wait for Universal Credit; abolishing the benefit cap; and raising the Local Housing Allowance so more people have their rents covered in the private rented sector. More details of these proposals can be found in the letter from Labour’s Shadow Housing Secretary, Thangam Debbonaire MP, to the Housing Secretary here.
Off the back of ‘Everyone In’, we have an opportunity to tackle the homelessness crisis and build back better as we recover from the pandemic. However, if the government fails to take action now, we could end up with even more people on the streets.”
The Big Change Fund has appealed for donations to enable the Council and homeless charities to help those currently being supported by ‘Everyone In’ into new accommodation. You can find more details of this and what Manchester City Council are doing to respond to the government ending the scheme here.