Local authorities in England do not have a duty to secure accommodation for all homeless people. Rough sleepers are one of the most vulnerable groups in society. Studies have found strong correlations between homelessness and a multiplicity, and increased severity, of both physical and mental health conditions.

In 2020, an estimated 688 homeless people died in England and Wales. Men accounted for the majority of deaths. The average age of death was 45.9 years for men and 41.6 years for women. Most deaths recorded were due to drug-related poisoning, suicide, and alcohol-specific causes.

An estimated 2,440 people slept rough on a single night in autumn 2021, of whom 640 were in London.

A target to end rough sleeping

Successive Governments have put in place initiatives to tackle rough sleeping.

The Conservative Manifesto December 2019 (PDF) committed to ending “the blight of rough sleeping by the end of the next Parliament” through an extension of the Rough Sleeping Initiative which began in 2018, Housing First, and using local services to meet the health and housing needs of people living on the streets.

Policy impact

Despite considerable efforts, the official rough sleeper counts showed increases every year after new methodology was introduced in autumn 2010 up to the autumn 2017 count. The results of the 2017 count were published on 25 January 2018 – a 169% increase in the number of people sleeping rough in England since 2010 was recorded.

The recorded number of rough sleepers then fell by 2% in 2018 and 9% in 2019, although the 2019 count still represented a 141% increase on the 1,768 recorded in 2010. The 2020 count recorded a 37% drop in rough sleeping on 2019. This count coincided with a national lockdown and tier restrictions in response to Covid-19. The 2021 count recorded a further 9% fall on 2020 but was still up by 670 people (38%) on 2010.

The latest financial year report from the Combined Homelessness and Information Network (CHAIN) database, CHAIN Greater London Annual Report 2020-21 reported that a total of 11,018 rough sleepers were contacted by outreach workers or building-based teams in London during 2020/21. This represented a 3% increase on the previous year. 7,531 (68%) were seen rough sleeping for the first time.

‘Everyone In’ and ending rough sleeping by 2024

The Government’s ‘Everyone In’ programme to assist rough sleepers through the Covid-19 crisis is hailed as one of the most effective of its responses to the pandemic. The sector is keen to take to the opportunity to build on its success to achieve the Government’s target of ending rough sleeping by 2024.

Numerous reports have identified measures viewed as necessary to the target’s achievement. There’s a good deal of agreement over the need for action in the following areas:

  • A long-term strategy with regular progress reviews and which reflects lessons learned from Everyone In, backed up with sufficient long-term funding.
  • A need to develop a solution for those with no recourse to public funds. There’s reference to addressing the “tensions” between the rough sleeping target and immigration policy.
  • Addressing barriers to housing access arising from certain welfare reforms, such as limits on Local Housing Allowance rates and their failure to keep pace with market rent levels.
  • A need to increase grant funding to support the delivery of 90,000 units of social rented housing a year.
  • The need for concerted cross-government working.

The Autumn Budget and Spending Review 2021 built on investment since 2017 and announced £639 million resource funding by 2024-25, representing “a cash increase of 85% compared to 2019-20.” This three-year settlement was welcomed as delivering the certainty organisations need to plan service delivery.

A review of the Government’s Rough Sleeping Strategy (2018) was announced in 2020 but is still outstanding. On 3 March 2022, the Minister, Eddie Hughes, wrote to local authorities (PDF) saying “we will bring forward a bold, new strategy to end rough sleeping.”

 

 

 


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