The government has pledged that a new strategy to tackle rough sleeping will herald a sustained cross-departmental effort to tackle the problem, with a host of ministries given specific responsibilities to tackle the problem as part of a new £100m plan.
Under the scheme, which was published in full on Monday, thousands of rough sleepers will be offered rapid specialist assessments and support as part of a package of new measures announced in the government’s rough sleeping strategy.
Housing secretary James Brokenshire set out the government’s ambition to halve rough sleeping on England’s streets by 2022 and end it altogether by 2027. The plan is being supported by £100m of government funding intended to provide timely support to those at risk, as well as intervening to help people already on the streets to recover and find a new home.
The plan, published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, set out a series of action points for a total of six government departments and the Government Equalities Office, with a key focus on stopping people becoming homeless in the first place.
As well as setting the target to end rough sleeping in a decade, MHCLG has committed to support work in local areas to improve the recording and assessing of rough sleeping by autumn 2018, as well as working to plug evidence gaps and pilot new approaches. The £100m in funding will be used to support a series of projects, including the Rough Sleeping Initiative that supports a range of schemes which meet local needs, as well as pilot projects to work in approximately 15 areas to rapidly assess the needs of people at risk of rough sleeping and offer them support. Money will also be available to fund new rough sleeping navigators, a team of specialists who will help people who sleep rough to access the appropriate local services.
Commitments for other departments include the Department of Health and Social Care, Ministry of Justice and the Home Office working with MHCLG to undertake a review by 2020 of homelessness and rough sleeping legislation, which will include the Vagrancy Act, to ensure structures are in place to deliver effective services and engage with vulnerable people constructively.
DHSC has also been tasked with supporting local health and wellbeing boards to recognise and respond to the health needs of people who sleep rough, and with requesting that the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence produce guidance to support targeted homelessness prevention, integrated care and recovery.
The MoJ has also been tasked with a series of commitments focused on helping those leaving prison, including undertaking pilots to support offenders who have been identified as being at risk of rough sleeping on release, as well as working with the Department for Work and Pensions to trial a new process to improve access to benefits on leaving prison in late August 2018 in both public (HMP Wayland & Norwich) and contracted prisons (HMP Birmingham). In addition, an ‘accommodation on release’ performance metric for prison governors will be implemented from next year.
New Home Office team
The strategy also revealed that a dedicated Home Office team will be created to support and resolve the immigration status of non-UK nationals who are sleeping rough, while the Home Office will also set up a cross-government working group to explore options for more work to support non-UK nationals off the street, to form part of future strategy updates.
The strategy has also tasked the DWP with gathering evidence on policy options to address affordability in the private rented sector, while the Department for Education will provide £3.2m to employ specialist personal advisers to provide intensive support to care leavers most at risk of rough sleeping.
In its role as the government’s centre for policy on social impact bonds, where investors provide money for early interventions and are repaid by savings, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport will take steps to create a much-expanded social investment market to tackle rough sleeping as part of the 2027 target.
Elsewhere, the Government Equalities Office will work with MHCLG to undertake new research into homelessness among the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community and will set out further concrete steps to address the issues of LGBT homelessness in the first yearly refresh of the strategy.
Launching the plan, Brokenshire said that “it is simply unacceptable that people have to sleep on the streets and I am determined to make it a thing of the past”.
He added: “Whether people are at risk of rough sleeping, already on the streets or in need of settled accommodation, we have a solid plan to help the most vulnerable in our society.
"And this is not just about putting a roof over their heads, but helping them find a place to call home. These vulnerable people need our support and, through our expert-backed strategy, I am confident they will get it.”