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The Passage responds to The Kerslake Commission on Homelessness and Rough Sleeping

An independent commission has been established to assess and take learning from the ‘Everyone In’ emergency response which supported people sleeping rough during the pandemic. The Kerslake Commission on Homelessness and Rough Sleeping seeks to help all agencies involved in supporting those who are rough sleeping, homeless or at risk of rough sleeping, to understand what worked during the pandemic and what is now needed to embed the good practice that was shown during the past year.

There will be lessons for government at national, regional and local levels, and public health agencies, as well as the homelessness sector and providers. The Commission will gather evidence from across housing, health and homelessness sectors to feed into a report produced in the autumn with recommendations of how to consolidate and improve policy and practice in the future.

The Passage played a key part in the ‘Everyone In’ initiative, and over the last 12 months we have supported 419 people into accommodation and delivered over 80,000 meals via our emergency food hub.

You can read our response to the Kerslake Commission below:

Thinking about the response to rough sleeping during the pandemic, which measures, policies, practices or joint working do you think worked well and why?

We believe that Everyone In was successful for two overarching reasons:

  • National leadership and a sense of urgency from Dame Louise Casey which translated through to local authorities and local political leadership. Dame Louise made use of the expertise in the sector to spread messaging, share practice and demonstrate what can be achieved.
  • A significant change towards treating rough sleeping as a Public Health issue, rather than just a housing issue, enabled health, housing and support providers to work without the barriers that existed pre pandemic.

This national call to action led to a big change to operating procedures between local/regional authorities with providers, health colleagues and local authorities working in partnership to accommodate individuals with no terms attached to offers of accommodation. This played a significant role in the success of the emergency response.

Changes to policies and practice were also instrumental:

  • Local connection requirements were not a feature of the decision-making process as to whether an individual could be housed. 
  • Significant support needs of individuals moving indoors were addressed in each hotel site by coordinated multi-disciplinary teams of mental health professionals and drugs workers where, again local connection did not determine whether a person could access treatment. 
  • Pan London action and leadership and leadership from the GLA became paramount to communication and action in areas where local authorities lacked the expertise or resources to implement the initiative safely.

In contrast, which measures, policies, practices or joint working do you think have not worked well and why?

The key issues that we would suggest an exploration of and recommendations to take forward include:

  • ‘No Recourse’: the changed guidance from a literal ‘Everyone In’ towards one which local authorities had discretion around immigration/benefit status became a significant issue. This resulted in challenges of Judicial Reviews, a lack of clarity on what move on was possible (particularly given travel restrictions for return to home countries) and avoidable issues around next steps.
  • A lack of clarity on the responsibilities between the GLA, London Councils, MHCLG: due to the patchwork of provision and oversight, messages are muddled, data requirements vary and it can often be unclear what services are available.
  • Data integrity, quality and sharing of information: systems were not set up to capture the data requirements and all experienced a lack of infrastructure support and knowledge around GDPR to make real time data sharing a reality.
  • Short term funding: charities struggle to recruit and retain staff for fixed term contracts whereas support for people with high needs requires longer term commitments to make a difference.
  • Partnership with health colleagues: this was welcomed but conversations predominately focused on primary care when more is needed from mental health trusts. Coordinating Mental Health Act Assessments with the relevant teams became unachievable due to an ongoing lack of beds in facilities which can meet their needs.

Please describe the specific challenges, and opportunities, in the next phase of the Everyone In programme and helping people to move on from hotel accommodation.

While all involved have achieved significant outcomes with rehousing individuals from hotels, we are now left with many people with very high needs and those with uncertain immigration status in hotels. There is also inconsistency in approaches being taken by local authorities (e.g. some have carried on in the spirit of sustaining the reduction and others have ended their response). 

Moving forward, challenges include:

  • A lack of specialist supported accommodation placements – Housing First/led flats or accommodation-based support.
  • Mental health services and acute bed spaces for those with dual diagnosis have been missed out from additional funding, leaving out a significant amount of people who require a dual care approach. The lack of strategy to link up services to meet the needs that are clearly evidenced must be tackled to end someone’s homelessness for good
  • The moral issue related to those who have uncertain immigration status leaves us with a large group who will end up back on the streets. There is an opportunity to acknowledge that reconnection is not possible during a pandemic and the Home Office backlog on cases can mean it takes years to resolve a case which may result in many migrants returning to the streets, driving numbers up by at least 30%. Taking a public health approach to this group could prevent a mass return to the streets and support the government’s target of ending rough sleeping for good.

And finally, what do you think needs to be put in place to embed the good work that developed during the pandemic, or improve upon it?

The focus should be on:

  • Delivering clarity for London on roles and responsibilities of the local/regional/central government departments involved in solving rough sleeping.
  • Increase the supply and stability of supported accommodation for people with high needs; this may be through a capital programme with revenue attached or being bold by reintroducing a national Supporting People type approach.
  • Increasing national leadership through a detailed call to action with a long term, cross departmental strategy in place to bring together the departments with dependencies identified across each area.
  • Developing a national strategy to identify opportunities to make use of volunteers and faith groups in service delivery; build on the civic engagement felt throughout the pandemic and use the resources to support resettlement or other areas.
  • Funding has been targeted at the sharp end of homelessness for too long and there can and should be far more of a focus on prevention. The Homelessness Reduction Act is welcome and has increased prevention of homelessness, there is more to do around single people who are not priority need. Evidence suggests that developing a wider programme of funding and support to achieve a No Night Out approach will reduce reliance on long term, expensive Temp Accommodation use alongside utilising voluntary sector organisation’s links with socially minded landlords to accommodate and support people to maintain their tenancy.
  • Finally, developing a national CHAIN database will support far more effective working across the country and provide a more seamless approach to supporting people.