Luke Hall: ‘We are working flat out to ensure that no one gets left behind’

The Minister for Rough Sleeping writes exclusively for The Big Issue to set out how the UK Government will ensure that no has to live on the streets once again after the Covid-19 pandemic

For many of us, these last few weeks may have been the longest period spent at home in years. We are fortunate enough to have safe spaces to live, work and maintain some type of routine throughout this crisis.

As Minister for Rough Sleeping, I know that for too many, this is not the case. There are those with no place to call home, no place to shelter and stay healthy.

As we enter the next stage of our national effort, taking our first steps towards recovery, we are working flat out alongside homelessness and rough sleeping charities to ensure nobody is left behind.

We have already achieved a phenomenal amount.

Through a dedicated frontline effort, almost 15,000 people have been sheltered under the ‘everyone in’ initiative. We have charities, councils and many other partners to thank unreservedly for helping make this plan a reality.

And in addition to providing people with accommodation we have been providing much needed services too. We have heard stories of people who have not engaged with services for many years getting help in this accommodation, so in the midst of this terrible pandemic there is hope that this could be an opportunity to turn their lives around. Local health partnerships have been working hard to assess the needs of those in accommodation, offering GP registration, drug and alcohol treatment, and mental health services.

There have been some fantastic local examples across the country, including the new pan-London substance misuse team commissioned by the City of London on behalf of the Greater London Authority, and examples of new flexible approaches such as GP surgeries delivering clinics in hotels, as is happening in Portsmouth.

All of this is underpinned by the £3.2 billion the government has given to local councils to manage the impacts of COVID-19, including supporting homeless people.

This is what we have achieved in only recent weeks, and the Government is going on to deliver much more.

We will hugely increase housing stock for move-on homes; bringing forward the funding announced for rough sleeping services in the Budget and extending the fund overall to £433 million. This will create 6,000 new supported housing units, over half of them in the next 12 months. This is the most ambitious intervention of its kind, and the single biggest injection of move-on accommodation since the Rough Sleepers Initiative began.

And, as we have supported rough sleepers with wrap around services in the short term, so we plan to do well into the future. In addition to the move-on accommodation itself, we will be funding specialist support to ensure people’s physical, mental and substance misuse needs are addressed.

We are also putting in place a host of measures to prevent people becoming homeless in the first place. We have increased the Local Housing Allowance rates for Universal Credit and Housing Benefit claimants, so the average claimant will get an extra £600 a year in housing support. We are supporting those on low incomes through the pandemic with a range of temporary welfare measures: taken together, including those announced at Budget, these measures provide over £6.5bn of additional support. And we have suspended evictions from social and private rented accommodation for a further two months, protecting tenants at risk of eviction.

Finally, to ensure we deliver, these plans will be driven by our new rough sleeping taskforce, spearheaded by Dame Louise Casey, and will involve close working with charities, councils and other partners. This is a landmark moment in our campaign against rough sleeping. We have a clear strategy and serious financial investment to achieve our goal.

There will be challenges ahead. However, we should be proud of the incredible progress that we have made in recent weeks and the high level of funding and support the Government has put in place for the future. We consider it our moral mission to end rough sleeping, and together, we must seize this opportunity to help make it happen.

Luke Hall is the MP for Thornbury and Yate and the Minister for Rough Sleeping