Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Boris pledges £236 million to end rough sleeping as new research questions the accuracy of Government data

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson has pledged an extra £236 million to help get rough sleepers off the streets, in addition to £437 million already promised to tackle the rising scourge of homelessness in England.

The new funding will go towards offering Housing First style “move on” accommodation for up to 6,000 rough sleepers and those at immediate risk of rough sleeping, in a move the government hopes will help to reduce homelessness and the rising numbers of rough sleepers.

Jon Sparkes, the chief executive of the homeless charity Crisis, welcomed today’s announcement but added that the new investment must be used to built “real homes rather than paying to keep people homeless in hostels and night shelters”.

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Polly Neate, the chief executive of Shelter, said people are “tipped into homelessness simply because there are not enough affordable, safe, and secure homes in this country.”

She continued: “Emergency measures to get people off the streets quickly and housing first pilots can only go so far, if you don’t have the stable homes to back them up.”

Dame Louise Casey has been asked to undertake a review into rough sleeping, in the hope of better understanding the route causes and provide advice to Government on the actions needed to permanently end the crisis.

However, she has previously rejected reports that she is willing to work with the PM on tackling homelessness and rough sleeping.

But commenting on being asked to undertake a review, Dame Louise Casey said: “I am pleased to accept this commission from the Prime Minister and the Housing Secretary.

“Homelessness, and within that rough sleeping, is something that causes misery so I hope that I will be able to help the Government and the country expedite action on this issue.”

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Today’s announcement comes ahead of the publication of new annual figures on the numbers of rough sleepers, and before a visit by the Prime Minister to a homelessness charity.

Photo credit: Pixel whippersnapper edwewwewqew via photopin (license)

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “It is simply unacceptable that we still have so many people sleeping on the streets, and I am absolutely determined to end rough sleeping once and for all.

“Today I’ve announced extra funding to help thousands more people get off the streets, and I have appointed Dame Louise Casey as an adviser to undertake an urgent review into the causes of rough sleeping and provide expert advice on vital next steps.

“We must tackle the scourge of rough sleeping urgently, and I will not stop until the thousands of people in this situation are helped off the streets and their lives have been rebuilt.”

Housing Secretary Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP said: “I’m determined that we end rough sleeping in this Parliament, meeting our moral obligation to support the most vulnerable in society.

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“We will be bringing together housing, addiction, mental health and the criminal justice system as never before to tackle this social ill from every angle.

“The coordinated effort that we will now pursue, beginning with this review, builds on the progress we have made in recent years, reducing the number of people sleeping on the streets.”

The news comes as figures obtained the BBC through the Freedom of Information Act found that the number of people sleeping rough of England’s sleep could be as much as five-times worse than official government statistics suggest.

The figures reveal that 28,000 people were recorded by councils as sleeping rough over the last 12 months, of which nearly 25,000 were in England.

This compares to official data from 2018 showing that 4,677 people were found sleeping rough on a given night – figures that have been used by Ministers to argue that rough sleeping in England is beginning to fall.

The damning figures bring into doubt the accuracy of official government statistics, with labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Housing calling on the UK Statistics Authority to investigate the methods used in collecting the data.

“These figures expose the shameful scale of rough sleeping on our country’s streets”, he said.

“They also confirm that the Government’s own published statistics are seriously misleading and an unreliable undercount of the number of people sleeping rough.

“The Conservatives can’t begin to fix the problem when they won’t admit the scale of it. Ministers should replace these discredited statistics and adopt Labour’s plan to end rough sleeping for good.”

Photo: Alexander Baxevanis via Flickr (CC-BY)

Commenting on the BBC’s investigation, which is based on figures provided by local authorities, a government spokesperson said: “We’re committed to eliminating rough sleeping by the end of the Parliament and our efforts have already led to the first nationwide fall in a decade.

“We’re confident our independently verified snapshot provides a good estimate of the numbers of people sleeping rough on a given night.

“This year we will give nearly half a billion pounds to councils and charities to support homelessness and rough sleeping services and get people off the streets for good.”

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