The government will not meet its target to end rough sleeping by 2024, a panel of experts has warned.

According to the Kerslake Commission, which was established in 2021 to examine the lessons from the emergency response which supported people sleeping rough during the Covid-19 pandemic, ​chronic and unresolved systemic issues have left the country exposed to rising homelessness.

In a new report, the commission says that “strong partnership working and a shared purpose made a massive reduction to rough sleeping during the pandemic, but we are now beyond ways of working. The current government and next administration must take urgent action to address the rapidly rising rates of homelessness and rough sleeping, which stem from a severe shortage in affordable housing, a lack of statutory support services, and a cost of living crisis that is pushing more and more people into homelessness.”

Latest national official figures show a 26% increase in rough sleeping and the highest rates of people living in temporary accommodation on record. As political parties prepare for their party conferences, the commission is recommending three key principles that should guide the next administration’s approach to end homelessness and rough sleeping for good:

  • Prevent people from getting to the brink of homelessness– the government needs to be preventing people from reaching crisis point and becoming homeless or at risk of homelessness
  • No one should need to arrive on to the streets to get help– where people are at risk of rough sleeping, there should be a cross sector effort to make timely and effective interventions that prevent an episode of rough sleeping
  • Everyone should have a route out of rough sleeping– for anyone who is rough sleeping, there needs to be a meaningful and tailored offer which will take them away from the streets for good.

Drawing on evidence from local authorities, homelessness service providers and people with lived experience, the commission strongly advocates that prevention and system change must form the basis of a robust response, rather than solely responding to people in crisis. In the interim, the cmmission is urgently calling on the government to increase housing benefit so that it covers local affordable rents.

Responding to the report, St Mungo’s Chief Executive, Emma Haddad, said: “The dedication of people working throughout the homelessness sector shines through the report, but it sets out starkly that we are working against the tide. The chronic shortage of affordable housing and appropriate support services means we are just responding to people already in crisis rather than preventing them from reaching that point in the first place.

“The recommendations give a clear set of actions to both the current government and the next administration that would make a big difference to tackling rough sleeping and homelessness. They would do well to listen to the expert voices contained in the report.

“We made so much progress on rough sleeping during the pandemic, which clearly demonstrated what can be done when we work together with a shared purpose and dedicated funding. It’s time we applied the same energy to stop this homelessness and rough sleeping crisis spiralling further.

“When Bob Kerslake died in July 2023, we lost a staunch ally of the homelessness sector. This report is a tribute to him and his life’s work.”

The Kerslake family said: “After over 40 years as a public servant, many of which were spent on delivering quality homes and environments, Bob was saddened and dismayed by the rise of homelessness across our country. He was proud to chair the commission and totally committed to its findings. He would have been vociferous in publishing its conclusions and recommendations.

“His main focus would have been persuading those who have the power to make positive changes to read this report in depth, then work together to meet those recommendations. As his family, we firmly believe that this would be a fitting tribute to a great man who worked tirelessly for the betterment of others.”

The Kerslake Commission was steered and directed by Lord Bob Kerslake until his untimely passing in July 2023 and this report has been built from his legacy.

Key stats from the report September 2023 

Rising homelessness and rough sleeping

  • The 2022 national official figures showing a 26% increase in rough sleeping
  • London CHAIN data shows that in the 2022/23 financial year, 6,391 people in London were recorded as sleeping rough for the first time, a 26% increase on that figure from the previous financial year (2021/22)
  • Statutory homelessness figures show the percentage of households successfully accommodated at the end of a prevention duty dropped to 45%, its lowest level since 2018
  • At the end of 2022, over 100,000 households were living in temporary accommodation, up 5% from the same period the year before and the highest on record
  • Tragically the average age of death for a person registered as homeless is just 45 years old.

Housing affordability crisis

  • Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows private rents in the UK increased by 5.1% in the 12 months to June 2023, representing the largest annual percentage change since the UK data series began in January 2016
  • Analysis from the Institute for Fiscal Studies has found that by the first quarter of 2023, just 5% of properties in the private rented sector were affordable at LHA rates
  • Research published in March 2022 showed low-income households were facing an average £372 deficit between their Local Housing Allowance and the cost of the cheapest monthly rents in their local areas
  • The Government estimates that restoring LHA rates to the 30th percentile for 2023/24 would cost £700 million. While this is a significant investment, it is much lower than the growing cost of providing temporary accommodation, which cost at least £1.6 billion in 2021/22.

Social and supported housing

  • The National Housing Federation estimates that around 8.5 million people in England are in housing need
  • In the year to March 2021, there were only 246,000 new social housing lettings, a decrease of 20% or 60,000 lets from the previous year
  • 92% of homelessness providers surveyed by Homeless Link said they were concerned the rising cost of living would impact their ability to maintain service and support standards
  • Supported housing helps ease the pressure on the NHS and care services with the National Housing Federation estimating it saves the public purse around £940 per resident per year
  • Research funded by the National Housing Federation projects that by 2024-25, there will be a national shortfall of 46,771 supported, sheltered and extra care housing places.

Read the commission’s full report, Turning the  Tide on Rising Homelessness and  Rough Sleeping, here.