Former homelessness tsar to lead coronavirus rough sleeping taskforce

Dame Louise Casey will lead unit to ensure "as few people as possible return to life on the streets" after the crisis

Photo: CSW/Tal Cohen

Former homelessness tsar Dame Louise Casey has been appointed to spearhead the next phase of the government’s work to houserough sleepers.

Casey, will lead a new taskforce that will work with local councils to move homeless people into “long-term, safe” accommodation once the Covid-19 crisis has passed, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has announced.

Casey, whose career in government began leading the then-Labour government’s Rough Sleepers Unit, was director general of the Troubled Families programme in the Department for Communities and Local Government until 2017.


Under her direction, the new taskforce will ensure “as few people as possible return to life on the streets” following efforts to house people during the pandemic, MHCLG said.

More than 90% of people known by councils to be sleeping rough have been offered accommodation to help prevent the spread of the virus since the beginning of the outbreak, some 5,400 in total, according to the department. This has been backed by £3.2m of central government funding.

“This national effort has potentially helped to protect thousands of lives,” housing secretary Robert Jenrick said.

He said Casey, who returned to Whitehall in February to lead an urgent MHCLG review into the causes of rough sleeping, would provide “expert advice and knowledge to put in place a long-term plan to stop as many vulnerable people as possible from returning to life on the streets”.

Casey said: “The storm of Covid-19 has affected us all in many, varied and sometimes deeply tragic ways – we know that it is a virus that does not discriminate. Due to the incredible efforts by people in local councils, charities, hotel staff and the public, many rough sleepers have been brought in and off the streets.

“Much has been done, and there is much still to do. We have all had to respond to this crisis with a deep resolve but also innovation – in bringing people inside, there is now a real opportunity to address the health and social needs of these individuals and if we can stop them going back to the streets.

“This, like so much over the last few weeks, will take a huge national effort and I’m pleased to be able to be part of that.”

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