London Councils has welcomed a new report from the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee warning that successful efforts to tackle rough sleeping during Covid-19 risk being squandered unless the government funds “a comprehensive exit strategy”.
London Councils, a cross-party group representing the 32 boroughs and the City of London Corporation, is calling for:
- a boost to local authority funding to meet the higher support needs of rough sleepers and ensure onward accommodation can be secured
- a twelve-month suspension of no recourse to public fund restrictions to enable financial support for those who would otherwise return to rough sleeping
- further welfare policy changes to support homeless Londoners and those at risk of homelessness, including lifting the benefit cap and abolishing the local housing allowance shared accommodation rate for single applicants under 35
- a phased lifting of lockdown measures to avoid a cliff edge when hotel accommodation returns to commercial use.
London faces the most severe homelessness crisis in the country, accounting for more than two-thirds of homeless households in England. Boroughs have been on the frontline of the capital’s response to Covid-19, with boroughs and their partners securing emergency accommodation for around 4,000 rough sleepers since the start of the pandemic.
London Councils’ evidence to the select committee, highlighted in the report, revealed that 900 of the rough sleepers accommodated in London have no recourse to public funds.
Boroughs are also extremely concerned about a potential avalanche of evictions and spike in homelessness once the government’s temporary ban on evictions is lifted at the end of June. They have pointed to the severe housing pressures caused by London’s chronic undersupply of social housing.
Cllr Darren Rodwell, London Councils’ Executive Member for Housing & Planning, said:
“Since the start of the pandemic, boroughs have worked flat out to support homeless Londoners and secure emergency accommodation for rough sleepers.
“We now have an unprecedented opportunity to permanently embed this progress. An end to rough sleeping is within our grasp – but it requires urgent action from the government, including a range of policy measures and investment in frontline services.
“Boroughs urge ministers to take note of this crucial report and its recommendations. Unless a comprehensive strategy is put in place soon, we risk rough sleepers returning to the streets – and no-one wants to see that.”