London boroughs have welcomed the launch of the government’s ‘Protect Programme’ for supporting rough sleepers over winter, but have also highlighted the continued funding pressures facing local services.
The government’s announcement includes an additional £15 million for local authorities across England. However, London boroughs alone already face a shortfall of £13 million this year in their homelessness and rough sleeping budgets – even with the government’s financial support confirmed so far. The umbrella group London Councils calculates that bringing in the capital’s estimated 900 rough sleepers will add an extra £19 million to boroughs’ costs.
Cllr Darren Rodwell, London Councils’ Executive Member for Housing & Planning, said:
“Boroughs are determined to do everything we can to get rough sleepers off the streets and kept safe over winter. It’s absolutely essential that this support is available to everyone – nobody must be left behind.
“We’ve got major concerns about worsening pressures over the coming months. Homelessness services are already stretched – and the government’s funding fails to match what we’re spending.
“The government is right to keep focused on preventing homelessness and protecting rough sleepers, but it also needs to keep listening to local councils and ensuring services have the resources required.”
London boroughs have played a pivotal role in securing emergency accommodation for rough sleepers. Working in partnership with City Hall and the voluntary sector, huge progress has been made in getting rough sleepers off London's streets and keeping them safe during the pandemic. The latest estimate is that around 900 people are still sleeping rough in London. There are currently 3,425 rough sleepers in emergency accommodation in the capital. A further 3,092 former rough sleepers have now been found 'move on' accommodation.
Even before Covid-19, London faced the most severe homelessness crisis in the country, accounting for two-thirds of England's homelessness total. In addition to the rough sleepers placed in emergency accommodation in response to the pandemic, there are also 60,000 London households living in temporary accommodation.
London Councils warns that the combination of a second wave of Covid-19 during the winter months will add further pressure on frontline homelessness services. Boroughs expect their funding shortfall will widen unless the government provides additional resources to compensate for rising expenditure. The normal pathway of hostels and winter shelters rely on shared sleeping spaces which are not Covid-19 safe, and boroughs are calling for further government guidance on how best to manage arrangements.
Boroughs need assured, long-term funding to sustain their crucial work on homelessness prevention and to help achieve the government’s goal of ending rough sleeping by 2024. London Councils is calling on the government to commit to sustainable funding for these services as part of its upcoming spending review.