NAO praise government response to homelessness during Covid-19 | News

NAO praise government response to homelessness during Covid-19

The National Audit Office (NAO) has praised MHCLG for "swiftly" providing emergency housing for rough sleepers during the first wave of Covid-19.

However, the response "raised issues that need to be addressed if government is to achieve its goal of ending rough sleeping by the end of this Parliament".

Rough sleepers typically experience poorer health than the rest of the population and are especially vulnerable to respiratory illnesses. Those at risk of rough sleeping may also occasionally sleep in communal shelters, where they cannot self-isolate if they have symptoms of Covid-19.

Local authorities expect to spend around £170m this financial year rehousing rough sleepers in response to the pandemic, paid for by a combination of emergency government grants, existing homelessness funding streams, and their own resources.

The NAO said the Everyone In initiative "adopted a hands-on approach to work intensively with local authorities, homelessness charities and hotel chains".

By mid-April 2020, the report notes, 5,400 people had been made an offer of emergency accommodation and by the end of November, over 33,000 people had been helped through Everyone In. A total of 23,273 people had been supported to move into the private rental sector or another form of settled accommodation, and 9,866 people remained inhotels and other emergency accommodation.

The NAO also notes that the "number of people accommodated under Everyone In over several months far exceeded the number of people recorded as rough sleeping in the government’s annual national ‘snapshot’ of the rough sleeping population". In the autumn of 2019, this snapshot estimated that there were 4,266 people sleeping rough on any given night, compared to the over 33,000 people who were helped by Everyone In.

In January 2021, MHCLG announced it was making an extra £10m available to support local authorities to provide accommodation to people still sleeping rough. "It remains to be seen if the approach taken in winter 2020-21 will reduce the risk of the transmission of Covid-19 among rough sleepers as decisively as in spring 2020," the NAO say.

The report also adds: "The government has an election manifesto commitment to end rough sleeping by May 2024. In February 2020, the Department was preparing to carry out a review of its Rough Sleeping Strategy in light of the new target, but due to the prioritisation given to Everyone In, this did not take place.

"There is an ongoing need for a review of the strategy as it is out of step with the government’s target to end rough sleeping by 2024, and there are important lessons from Everyone In to consider."

Gareth Davies, head of the NAO, said: “In partnership with local government, and the voluntary and private sectors, the government acted swiftly to house rough sleepers and keep transmission rates low during the first wave. Despite this considerable achievement, the response raised key issues for government to address.

“For the first time, the scale of the rough sleeping population in England has been made clear, and it far exceeds the government’s previous estimates. Understanding the size of this population, and who needs specialist support, is essential to achieve its ambition to end rough sleeping.”

 

You can read the full National Audit Office report here.