“Now is the time to act” to end rough sleeping, says Labour

Labour has said that “now is the time to act” to end rough sleeping in the UK, and declared that the coronavirus pandemic represents a “once in a generation opportunity”.

The party today issued a statement signed by Keir Starmer, mayors Sadiq Khan, Andy Burnham, Steve Rotheram, Dan Jarvis, Jamie Driscoll and Shadow Housing Secretary Thangam Debbonaire.

The Labour leader and elected ‘metro mayors’ warned that the 5,000 homeless people who have been accommodated during the Covid-19 crisis could end up back on the street and called for “certainty over the future funding arrangements”.

In response to the pandemic, the government implemented its ‘Everyone In’ policy – allocating £3.2m to local authorities to expand the provision of emergency hotel and hostel accommodation for rough sleepers.

But a document leaked earlier this month revealed that the government had “drawn a line” under this programme and that it would no longer be receiving funding. However, no ministerial statement has been made.

London Councils has called for the government to provide “urgent clarity” on the next steps, while the homelessness charity St Mungo’s has published a set of five demands to ensure rough sleepers don’t end up back on the street after lockdown.

Below is the full text of the statement issued by Labour today.

Coronavirus is the biggest crisis our country has faced for a generation. But it has also presented us with a once in a generation opportunity: to help thousands of rough sleepers off the streets for good.

Thanks to the incredible work of local government, and dedicated funding from central government, that opportunity is within our grasp.

The government has rightly committed to protecting vulnerable rough sleepers for the duration of the pandemic. However, the dedicated funding to house rough sleepers is set to run out and no clear plans or resources have been put in place by government for what happens next.

The government needs to provide clarity on their ‘Everyone In’ policy, to include those made homeless during the lockdown, and certainty over the future funding arrangements. Without this we could see rough sleepers ending up back on the streets. We also need to see policy changes for those with no recourse to public funds, and changes to Local Housing Allowance and Housing Benefit. These changes will help us move rough sleepers into longer-term accommodation and provide wrap-around support to help them stay there.

We restate today our commitment to doing everything in our power to ensure that no one who has been helped off the streets during this period is forced to return. That includes non-UK nationals who wouldn’t normally be able to access welfare and other support.

But to achieve this we need the government to make the same pledge – and to back it up with actions. Warm words are worth nothing to those who were sleeping on the streets, and people across the country will not forgive us if this opportunity is missed. Mayors and council leaders are doing everything possible, but we need that commitment to be matched by government.

When this crisis is over, we cannot return to business as usual. Rough sleepers, some of whom are receiving support for the first time, have been brought safely off the streets. We cannot let that progress go to waste.

This is an unprecedented opportunity to ‘build back better’ and avoid a return to business as usual. If the government is serious about its commitment to end rough sleeping, now is the time to act.

Signed by:

Keir Starmer MP, leader of the Labour Party;
Thangam Debbonaire MP, Shadow Housing Secretary;
Sadiq Khan, mayor of London;
Andy Burnham, mayor of Greater Manchester;
Steve Rotheram, mayor of Liverpool City Region;
Dan Jarvis MP, mayor of Sheffield City Region; and
Jamie Driscoll, mayor of North Tyne.

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