In for Good? Our response to the Kerslake Report

Four takeaways from the Kerslake Report

In March of 2020, in just a matter of days, tens of thousands of people experiencing or at risk of rough sleeping were brought inside.

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As the first wave of the pandemic broke across the country, local authorities, agencies, charities and other partnership organisations working under government direction were able to make an offer of self-contained accommodation to approximately 90% of people rough sleeping in the UK.

This programme was called ‘Everyone In,’ and it represented a major development in homelessness.

With a clear mandate from central government and unprecedented levels of funding, organisations like ours were able to keep people experiencing homelessness safe through a challenging and dangerous time.

The Lancet estimates that ‘Everyone In’ prevented 266 deaths during the first wave, along with thousands of hospital and ICU admissions.

Additionally, with extra funding and flexibility, organisations working in homelessness were able to innovate and collaborate like never before, resulting in positive results for the people we work with in areas such as housing and health.

The Kerslake Commission was formed to properly examine the lessons learned from Everyone In and to ensure that the progress made was not lost, speaking with 91 different agencies and individuals involved in the effort, including people with lived experience of homelessness.

Its full findings will be released in September but yesterday the Commission published their interim report: When We Work Together – learning the lessons which makes recommendations for the Comprehensive Spending Review – the process by which the government allocates expenditure – due to take place later this year.

Principally, the report recommends that the ethos and funding for Everyone In be kept in place if the government is to meet its target of solving rough sleeping by 2024.

Read on for four takeaways.

The government has an opportunity to prevent people from reaching housing crisis

Kerslake plainly states the the government must keep the £20 per week uplift in Universal Credit and that the benefit cap should be increased in areas with high affordability pressure – which includes Bristol. It goes on to advocate for a “package of financial support… provided for people in arrears due to the pandemic, consisting of a mixture of grants and loans, in order to prevent evictions.”

Jessie Seal, Project Manager of Caring in Bristol and CHAS Bristol’s Homelessness Prevention Project says:

“The Universal Credit uplift is currently scheduled to end in September and will force 500,000 people into poverty, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation estimates. It must remain in place, or else the government will be pushing thousands of people into housing crisis. Furthermore, we know that many households have fallen into rent arrears as the pandemic has devastated the economy.

Without support from the government, many will face eviction and homelessness. The government must keep the uplift and must provide additional help for renters.”

 

The condition of No Recourse to Public Funds is incompatible with ending homelessness

As we reported in May of this year, people with the NRPF designation – which renders them unable to access benefits or housing due to their immigration status – had the support that was initially offered to them under Everyone In withdrawn.

This pushed dozens onto the streets overnight, many of whom were amongst our city’s most vulnerable residents.

The report recommends that “[t]he Government should establish a clear policy position that implementing No Recourse to Public Funds must stop short of causing destitution” and that steps are taken to “create a dedicated funding allocation for specialist welfare advice and employment support targeted at people with No Recourse to Public Funds, as well as good quality immigration advice.”

We know that NRPF designation puts people in already-precarious circumstances at further risk of destitution and homelessness. Helping people away from the streets and back to independence should not be contingent on their immigration status.

 

‘Everyone’ must mean everyone

As well as people facing the dual pressure of homelessness and NRPF designation, the report states that more must be done to support women and young people, who are too often overlooked by current responses to rough sleeping. Kerslake notes that a lack of accommodation options for women resulted in an increase risk of abuse and domestic violence, which in turn could force them back onto the streets.

Similarly, a lack of dedicated accommodation for young people meant that they either did not access emergency accommodation, or did so and had to enter unsafe situations. This was especially difficult for LGBTQ+ young people, who face a heightened risk of abuse without tailored provision.

Nobody should have to choose between rough sleeping and unsafe accommodation. In opening Bristol’s only dedicated youth shelter later this year, we will provide wraparound care and support for our guests and ensure that they have a suitable longer-term option to move on to. We will also thoroughly assess and evaluate the shelter, building a best-practice model that can be replicated throughout the city to help address Bristol’s youth homelessness crisis.

 

Solving homelessness is possible 

The report concludes that the government should “should adopt Everyone In as the shared ambition for the future and continue to treat rough sleeping as a public health priority.” We agree.

Caring in Bristol Director Ben Richardson adds:

“Bristol can solve rough sleeping with the right resources and housing, proper political support from central government, and a huge effort from ordinary citizens, businesses and activist groups from all across our community. We can’t allow our city to slip back to the terrible sight of hundreds of people sleeping rough on our streets each night, and we’re committed to doing everything we can to prevent that.”

 

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