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Government pledges £100 million funding to tackle homelessness

Tuesday 14 August 2018

The UK Government has announced that they are to tackle homelessness by committing an additional £100 million as part of their rough sleeping strategy.

The strategy is the latest in a series of measures by the Government to tackle homelessness. It builds on the work of the Rough Sleeping Initiative announced in March this year and is based on the evidence put forward by the expert Advisory Panel (made up of representatives from the homelessness sector and local government) to deliver a new system built around prevention, intervention and recovery: 

  • preventing rough sleeping by providing timely support to those at risk;
  • intervening to help people already on the streets get swift, targeted support; and
  • helping people recover, find a new home quickly and rebuild their lives.

Launching the strategy on 13 August, Communities Secretary James Brokenshire MP, said: "Whether people are at risk of rough sleeping, already on the streets or in need of settled accommodation, we now have a solid plan to help the most vulnerable in our society."

£50 million of the money will be set aside for homes for people ready to move on from hostels or refuges and a further £30 million will be spent on mental health support. 

The approach

The key focus of the plans will be to prevent homelessness in the first instance, with those in crisis able to access individual support to help them off the streets and into long term accommodation, where they will continue to be supported.

The £100 million funding, which will be released over the next two years, takes a ‘housing led’ approach to solving the crisis, which begins with the premise that to eradicate rough sleeping the starting point is secure and affordable long-term housing. This is an approach first seen in the Housing First pilot scheme which is currently taking place across England and takes its inspiration from a model first seen in the USA. The new strategy aims to halve rough sleeping by 2022 as the Government move to a ‘Rapid Rehousing’ response to rough sleeping, with a view to ending it altogether by 2027. 

A housing led approach should in theory go a long way to helping the homeless, as many charities and other organisations cite evidence and first-hand accounts which show that, without a fixed address, people can find it more difficult to get benefits paid, get a bank account, and seek other help which they may be entitled to. Evidence from the Housing First model also shows that having secure and stable accommodation makes it easier for those with complex dependency or abuse problems to begin a recovery programme and can bring benefits to health and wellbeing.

Is it too little, too late?

With official statistics showing that 4,751 people slept rough on a typical night in Autumn 2017, up 15% on the previous year, the new strategy is welcome news to those tasked with helping the homeless. However, criticism has also been strong, with many arguing that it’s too little, too late.  

Shadow Housing Secretary, John Healey MP dismissed the strategy as “a feeble plan that lacks any urgency to tackle the crisis of rising rough sleeping”. He went on to say: “The scale of the problem is clear today but the Government’s target means waiting almost a decade to deal with this crisis. The funding announced will barely register compared to the reckless Conservative cuts to affordable housing, social security benefits and homelessness services that have caused this crisis.”

Marginalised groups

Working in conjunction with charities and experts, the strategy marks the beginning of a nine year policy to ensure no one has to sleep rough again. The Government say that they will test different approaches, learn from new evidence and scale up and roll out their programmes which prove successful.  

As well as general funding which will help all homeless people, money has been set aside specifically for certain marginalised groups including ex-prisoners and people from the LGBT community who are more at risk of becoming homeless. Measures will also be taken to address people trafficking and modern slavery.

In addition to the money set aside to tackle homelessness, the Government have also announced an additional £135 million will be funded from 'Dormant Assets' and instructed NHS England to spend up to £30 million on health services for rough sleepers over the next five years.

The private rented sector

In the strategy document, the Government promises to look at the affordability of the private rented sector with a view to developing policy options for post-2020 when the current LHA freeze ends.

A key recommendation from the Advisory Panel was to strengthen engagement with the private rented sector to bring online more homes for people who sleep rough. The Government say that they will “work with local areas to explore innovative models to ensure that the private rented sector also does its bit to support vulnerable people.”

They will also use the £20 million Private Rented Sector Access Fund announced at the 2017 Budget to support schemes that help single homeless people and families access private rented sector tenancies. They say that they will publish further details of their plans later this year. It’s not clear why details weren’t released now, as part of the new strategy.

The Government also state that: “We expect the Private Rented Sector Access Fund, Move On and Supported Lettings to support a wide range of schemes. We expect that local lettings agencies…will help people navigate their housing options at a local level...make informed choices and take on properties that they may not otherwise be able to access. We think that local lettings agencies have significant potential and are keen to support them to become important parts of our rapid rehousing approach.”

In total the Government claim to be investing £1.2 billion of funding to address homelessness issues as a whole across various programmes, including protecting core funding of £315 million to local authorities for their work on homelessness, and an additional £617 million in Flexible Homelessness Support Grant funding, which councils can use to work more strategically to prevent and tackle local homelessness pressures.

Download the full strategy document