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14 January, 2021 Open access

‘Everyone In’ campaign should be regarded as a ‘considerable achievement’, made more impressive by fact that MHCLG had no contingency plan for rough sleepers at outset of pandemic

However, National Audit Office warns that response to resurgence of Covid-19 this winter does not appear as comprehensive as the approach taken in Spring 2020

The government’s ‘Everyone In’ campaign should be regarded as a ‘considerable achievement’, made more impressive by the fact that the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) had no contingency plan in place for rough sleepers at the outset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the National Audit Office (NAO) has said.

In a new report, Investigation into the housing of rough sleepers during the COVID-19 pandemic, part of a programme of work to support Parliament’s scrutiny of the government’s response to Covid-19, the NAO largely focuses on the steps taken by the MHCLG at the outset of the pandemic and the achievements that have flowed from them.

In particular, the report highlights that -

In addition, as regards the achievements of the campaign, the report's findings include that -

However, notwithstanding the positive approach and achievements of the campaign highlighted by the NAO, it also notes significant shortcomings that have come to light, and makes recommendations to address each of these -

'Everyone In has for the first time provided data on the potential scale of the population in England which either sleeps rough or is at risk of doing so. The Department needs to build upon this knowledge to understand fully the size and needs of this population and communicate this to local authorities.

Everyone In has resulted in a large number of people remaining in emergency accommodation and not being able to move on from it because they have no recourse to public funds. The government needs to establish what action it will take with this population.

The response to the resurgence of COVID-19 does not appear as comprehensive as the initial Everyone In in the spring. The Department will need to keep under close review whether its more targeted approach will protect vulnerable individuals as decisively as the approach it took in the early stages of the pandemic.'

In addition, the NAO urges the MHCLG, and all other partners involved in supporting rough sleepers, to use the experience of Everyone In towards achieving the government's goal of ending rough sleeping by the end of this Parliament when the Department returns to its review of rough sleeping.

Commenting on the report, head of the NAO Gareth Davies said today -

‘In partnership with local government, and the voluntary and private sectors, the government acted swiftly to house rough sleepers and keep transmission rates low during the first wave. Despite this considerable achievement, the response raised key issues for government to address.

For the first time, the scale of the rough sleeping population in England has been made clear, and it far exceeds the government’s previous estimates. Understanding the size of this population, and who needs specialist support, is essential to achieve its ambition to end rough sleeping.’

For more information, see Investigation into the housing of rough sleepers during the Covid-19 pandemic from gov.uk