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17 March, 2021 Open access

Notable success of ‘Everyone In’ initiative has exposed gaps in government’s approach to tackling rough sleeping, say MPs

New Public Accounts Committee report also notes that number of people accommodated by scheme is far larger than number identified by autumn 2019 rough sleeping 'snapshot'

The notable success of the 'Everyone In' initiative - which was introduced in response to the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic and required local authorities to provide emergency accommodation to rough sleepers and those at risk of rough sleeping - has exposed gaps in the government's approach to tackling rough sleeping, according to a new report from the Public Accounts Committee.

In Covid-19 - housing people sleeping rough, the Committee finds that the 'Everyone In' scheme has been a 'considerable achievement', with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (the Department), local authorities and the voluntary sector, moving quickly and decisively to house people sleeping rough in spring 2020. As a result, the Committee says that some 20,000 transmissions of Covid-19 were potentially avoided, while deaths among this highly vulnerable population were limited to an estimated 16 against around 37,430 people who had been helped into accommodation by January 2021.

However, the Committee also finds that the initiative has exposed gaps in the Department’s approach to tackling rough sleeping -

'The Department has a target to end rough sleeping by May 2024, but does not have a strategy for achieving this outcome or maintaining it once met; nor does it have a clear understanding of how it will measure and report on progress. The scale of effort required to achieve this target may also be greater than previously suggested: the number of people accommodated in the first ten months of 'Everyone In' (37,430) was nearly nine times the number of rough sleepers recorded in the Department’s last official snapshot before the start of the pandemic (4,266). This also raises further questions about whether the Department’s funding of local authorities to achieve its objectives is adequate and sufficiently long-term.'

In addition, the Committee finds that, in some areas, the Department lacks transparency and clarity in its communications -

'Despite carrying out joint planning with the Home Office, it has not offered clear guidance on the policies it expects local authorities to take in respect of non-UK nationals who have no recourse to public funds. This includes those who have been temporarily housed under 'Everyone In', which is up to 50 per cent of those staying in hotels in London. The Department has sometimes shown a disappointing evasiveness regarding the data it holds on key trends; for example, it has failed to publish the updated figures it has been collecting on numbers of people sleeping on the streets. In other cases it has failed to collect or study data it should be monitoring - for example, whether it is on track to provide the 3,300 homes for people sleeping rough it has promised by the end of the 2020-2021 financial year.'

In light of these conclusions, the Committee makes a number of recommendations, including that -

Commenting on the report, Committee Chair Meg Hillier said today -

'Everyone In was a success with local authorities and voluntary organisations working to help people living on the street into hostels and hotel rooms in a matter of days. But the Everyone In initiative has exposed the scale of the task the Ministry of Housing faces to meet the Government’s commitment to end rough sleeping in three years.

Rough sleeping was a massive public health issue long before the pandemic, and much larger than Government has previously publicly acknowledged. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government now has a huge opportunity to capitalise on this success in the pandemic response and begin to reverse its long record of failed and abandoned housing targets and policies.

People without recourse to public funds are still left exposed and risk losing support. Support for these people is urgent.'

For more information, see Notable success of 'Everyone In' exposed rough sleeping problem many times larger than government has previously acknowledged from parliament.uk

Update (17 March 2021) - the government has published its response to the Committee's report at pages 24-27 of the Treasury Minutes - May 2021.