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EXPERTS have told the Tory government to continue its Covid-19 homelessness scheme for the long term or risk reversing progress on the issue.
In an interim report published today, the Kerslake Commission on Homelessness and Rough Sleeping calls on the government to continue the Everyone In scheme, which was set up to provide the homeless with accommodation during the pandemic.
Without maintaining the extra funding — an estimated £82 million per year — the government could fail to meet its manifesto pledge to end rough sleeping within the next three years and would likely face a post-pandemic surge in homelessness, the independent commission’s chairman Lord Bob Kerslake warned.
Local authorities and charities fear a rise in homelessness this autumn, the report states, as a combination of limited options for those with no recourse to public funds, fewer hotel rooms being available, and people being hit by universal credit cuts takes effect.
Under the Everyone In initiative, local authorities were told to provide emergency accommodation to rough sleepers, people living in shelters with shared sleeping arrangements and those at risk of rough sleeping during the first national lockdown last year.
According to government estimates, at least 37,000 people were provided with secure accommodation and access to health and other support services under the scheme.
Lord Kerslake said that the battle to end homelessness was at a pivotal moment.
“If we fail to learn the lessons of Everyone In, all the signs are that the situation will get worse, not better, and homelessness and rough sleeping will increase,” he said. “That would be an enormous lost opportunity for the government to deliver on its rough-sleeping commitment and a personal tragedy for those affected.”
Crisis chief executive Jon Sparkes told the Morning Star that the report was a “crucial first step,” but urged ministers to go further.
“We need to see a new strategy which at its heart must also include plans to provide more permanent, genuinely affordable homes and investment in programmes like Housing First for people with complex support needs,” he said. “We cannot go backwards on the progress made and risk more people being left with nowhere to go but our streets.”
The government said it would invest £750m this year into “giving rough sleeping and health services the funding they need to help get people off the streets and into settled accommodation.”
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