Dame Louise Casey is stepping down from her role as the government’s chief adviser on homelessness six months after being appointed to lead a review on ending rough sleeping that would have reported directly to prime minister Boris Johnson and housing secretary Robert Jenrick.
The former Troubled Families tsar, who worked as a civil servant from 1999 to 2017, originally entered Whitehall from housing charity Shelter to head up the then Labour government’s Rough Sleepers Unit.
Casey was redirected to work on the government’s homelessness task force as the Covid-19 pandemic unfolded earlier this year. She said her decision to step back from the role followed her appointment to the House of Lords as a crossbench peer last month.
However, the news also comes days before the scheduled end of the ban on evictions introduced five months ago in response to the Covid-19 pandemic – a move that Shelter predicts will cause a “devastating homelessness crisis” to unfold.
Responding to Casey’s decision, housing secretary Jenrick said her work during the coronavirus crisis had led to many rough sleepers being helped off the streets and kept safe.
“I would like to thank Dame Louise for her contribution at such a challenging time,” he said.
“Her work leading the Rough Sleeping Taskforce will ensure as many people as possible who have been brought in do not return to sleeping rough.
“Our plans for longer-term accommodation – 3,300 homes this year alone – and tailored support – backed by half a billion pounds of funding this year and next – will help us to meet our commitment to end rough sleeping once and for all.”
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said discussions were taking place with Casey to explore “what future advice and support” she may be able to offer the government.
In a letter announcing her decision to “step back” from the role she was appointed to in February, Casey said accepting the crossbench peerage had been “a big deal” to her and she wanted to think about how best to contribute to public service from the Lords.
“For a number of reasons this seemed like the right moment to step back, especially as the country looks to gear up to the 'new normal'," she said.
Shadow housing secretary Thangam Debbonaire said Casey’s resignation raised “serious questions” about the government’s strategy on rough sleeping.
“This chaotic government has no plan to avoid a self-made homelessness crisis this winter,” she said.
“They need to extend the ban on evictions, and come forward with a credible plan to keep their promise that no renter will lose their home because of coronavirus.”
The charity Crisis said it was “concerned” that Casey was stepping down from her role at a time when the economic impact of Covid-19 was pushing more people into homelessness.
“We urge the government to introduce emergency legislation to protect everyone at risk of homelessness,” it said.
Casey left government in 2017 to focus on voluntary sector and academic work. Between then and her return in February she publicly voiced concerns over the impact the rollout of Universal Credit was having on homelessness and the number of children being taken into care.