Council leader warns of ‘urgent shortfall’ in funding for rough sleepers

Camden Council Leader Georgia Gould. Photograph: Camden Council

Council leader Georgia Gould put out a warning this week over a “significant and urgent shortfall” in current government funding to support rough sleepers.

Communities secretary Robert Jenrick announced an allocation of £15m under the Protect Programme at the beginning of the month to help areas that need additional support most during lockdown restrictions and throughout winter.

However, according to Gould, Camden expects a shortfall of around the half the funding that will be needed, with “live and active negotiations” continuing around support for families with no recourse to public funds (NRPF).

Gould said: “The Protect programme is less generous than the Everybody In programme. They have given £15m to 10 areas across England including London, which will support us until May. We are predicting across London a significant shortfall.

“We think it would cost £19m to bring those people still on the streets in, and we think the money that we are eventually going to get from government is going to be about half that. So there is a significant and urgent shortfall across London in terms of rough sleeping support.

“That is without the NRPF issue which has just not been resolved, as we are facing a potential cliff edge in support. When government support does run out, there is nothing ongoing to help them transition to more longer term support so I would see that as a significant risk for us.”

Green party co-leader and Highgate Cllr Sian Berry also pointed to figures showing a recent rise in the estimated number of people sleeping rough from 50 throughout the last three weeks of October to 72 at the beginning of the month, with the number of sleepers in emergency accommodation falling from around 160 to 96 in the same timeframe.

At Cllr Berry’s request, Cllr Gould agreed to investigate what cross-London work is being done to support rough sleepers between the ages of 18 and 25, with the Green councillor adding: “It is quite evident there are under 25s who have never been homeless before, they have always managed to find somewhere informal to sleep, and now we are seeing very young people for the first time rough sleeping.

“It is quite clear this is a completely different cohort of people to the people who were rough sleeping who were brought into hotels. I think we need some kind of service for them, but everyone I talk to says this can’t be done borough by borough, and that there needs to be something pan-London.”

According to the government earlier ini the month, the £15m to be allocated under Protect will come concurrently to the £91.5m given to 274 councils under the Everyone In programme, as well as the £10m Cold Weather Fund to be shared by all councils to help keep rough sleepers safe over the winter.

Those areas with high numbers of rough sleepers will receive this extra support to provide accommodation, with those who are clinically vulnerable to be prioritised.

Jenrick said: “The way we have protected rough sleepers from COVID-19 is widely considered to be the best in the world.

“At the start of the pandemic we launched Everyone In, which protected thousands of vulnerable people. That work hasn’t stopped and we’ve backed it with £700 million.

“As the new national measures come into force, I am launching the Protect Programme to ensure councils are offering everyone sleeping rough on our streets today somewhere safe to go – protecting people from the virus and moving forward with our goal of eliminating rough sleeping.”

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