London boroughs welcome rough sleeper support, while highlighting uncertainty over long-term funding

  • By JackGraves

London Councils has welcomed the government’s allocation of funding to ensure rough sleepers housed in emergency accommodation during the pandemic do not return to the streets.

Of the £91.5 million of funding allocated today, the capital will receive £43.2 million. London faces the most severe homelessness crisis in the country, accounting for two-thirds of England’s homelessness total. An estimated 4,000 rough sleepers are currently in emergency accommodation in London, with a further 2,238 in move-on accommodation (a transition between homelessness hostels and independent living).

Cllr Darren Rodwell, London Councils’ executive member for housing & planning, said:

“Getting rough sleepers off the streets and keeping them safe in emergency accommodation has been a key part of London’s response to Covid-19. This is crucial for protecting public health, but it also presents a golden opportunity to reduce rough sleeping permanently. 

“The funding announced today will enable London boroughs and our partners to carry on this work.

“While we’re grateful for today’s allocations, questions remain over longer-term provision for the homelessness sector. Local homelessness services need ongoing, sustained funding commitments if we’re to embed the exciting progress being made in tackling rough sleeping – and we’ll continue to make this case to the government.” 

Covid-19 has changed the scale of the homelessness crisis, with the emergency situation for rough sleepers taking priority and expectations of increases in statutory homeless presentation. Boroughs now anticipate that spending on homelessness and rough sleeping in the capital will rise by an extra £97 million in 2020-21 due to Covid-19.

This comes on top of London boroughs’ expenditure on homelessness, which – prior to Covid-19 – was already expected to rise to a total of £1 billion by 2021/22, and which London Councils had previously warned was unsustainable. While boroughs have welcomed the emergency support provided by the government, a considerable funding gap remains. Boroughs need assured, long-term funding for this crucial work.

Boroughs have particular concerns about the London rough sleepers who are subject to ‘no recourse to public funds’ restrictions. These restrictions leave people without welfare support and leave councils footing the bill at a time when Covid-19 has already blown an enormous hole in their finances. London not only has more rough sleepers than other parts of the country, but a far higher proportion who are non-UK nationals. It is estimated that at least 900 rough sleepers in London are subject to NRPF. London Councils is calling for an immediate 12-month suspension of no recourse to public funds restrictions.