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Rough Sleeping is More Prevalent than Government Stats Reveal

The Government is woefully underprepared to provide essential support to rough sleepers in London, and the rest of England, largely because it has no idea exactly how pervasive the problem is, according to a recent study.. According to a recent report by the National Audit Office, this was never clearer than when estimating the number of people who would need temporary accommodation during the first lockdown.

The Salvation Army has repeatedly warned of the inaccuracy of data related to rough sleeping, which severely hampers planning and funding initiatives to combat the problem. The Salvation Army’s own Future-Proof the Roof report is one source of accurate data. The report recommends that the London CHAIN (Combined Homeless and Information Network) system be implemented throughout the UK.

CHAIN uses data directly provided by a number of organisations, including outreach workers, rough sleeper assessment services, and accommodation-related services (hostels and supported housing), which work with rough sleepers in London. CHAIN releases updated data quarterly.

Up-to-date information is essential

Commenting on the importance of accurate statistics, Lorrita Johnson, Director of Homelessness Services, said, “Without knowing how many people are out there how can the Government possibly properly fund support services long-term and stand any chance of meeting its own pledge to eradicate rough sleeping by the end of the current Parliament?”

The chasm between Government numbers and Everyone In count

According to data collected by Government from November 2019, only 4266 people are registered as rough sleepers in England – however, Everyone In recorded more than 33,000 rough sleepers!

Lorrita Johnson says, “Everyone In has for the first time exposed the true scale of rough sleeping in England and the Government now needs to grasp this new knowledge to help local authorities better through long-term funding for support services.”

Future-Proof the Roof report

Last summer The Salvation Army published Future-Proof the Roof, its blueprint to combat and, hopefully, put an end to homelessness. The report posits a new approach to investment in homelessness and rough sleeping, which will allow the Government to build upon current gains and extend its protection of people experiencing homelessness and those who are forced to sleep rough due to the economic effects of Covid-19.

Recommendations include:

  • A multi-year investment plan for homelessness that, at the very least, ensures a minimum investment of £700 million in 2020/21.
  • The Government must maintain the increase in the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) to make home rentals more affordable to those whose risk of homelessness is high. Furthermore, the freeze on the value of LHA rates from 2021/2022 must be reversed so that it keeps up with inflation. These measures will go a long way to preventing rather than causing homelessness.
  • The £20 per week increase to the standard allowance of Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit must be made permanent from April. Failure to do so could result in the immediate destitution of 700,000 people (300,000 of which are children).
  • A CHAIN-type recording system must be implemented beyond London, in regions where rough sleeping is particularly prevalent. Doing so will provide accurate data to ensure the allocation of funds and resources is sufficient to end rough sleeping during this Parliament, fulfilling its manifesto commitment.

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