The chancellor announced the money would be invested in rough sleeping and homelessness services in his financial statement, and hailed it as an “85 per cent increase in funding compared to 2019”.
However, the Conservative chancellor neglected to mention the funding is actually a 15 per cent cut from the £750m spent in the last year.
The Westminster government ramped up their spending to protect homeless people during the pandemic through the successful Everyone In scheme. The £700m initially invested protected around 37,000 homeless and vulnerable people in hotels and emergency accommodation during the pandemic.
The chancellor also hailed the government’s progress in “reducing rough sleeping by a third”. The official rough sleeping snapshot statistics found 2,688 people were estimated to be sleeping rough on a single night in autumn 2020 while the country was in lockdown.
This was a 37 per cent decrease on the 4,266 people counted in 2019 but was still 52 per cent higher than the 1,768 people counted in 2010 when the Conservatives came into power.
The official count – taken through single-night counts and estimates completed by local authorities – is considered to be less accurate than other measures of rough sleeping, such as the London-only CHAIN figures. CHAIN statistics have shown an decrease in the number of people counted on the streets in the English capital over the last few months, accompanied by a warning that the drop will be a ‘calm before the storm’.
Homelessness charities have repeatedly warned that the progress made throughout the pandemic risks being undone without a continued commitment to tackling homelessness and rough sleeping.
Reacting to the Budget announcement, Rick Henderson, chief executive at Homeless Link, said there is “still a lot of work to do” to hit government rough sleeping targets.
“While the £640m pa announced towards tackling homelessness and rough sleeping is £110m less than the spend for this year, it is still a marked rise on pre-pandemic levels of investment,” said Henderson.
“The full details of the money announced are as yet unclear, and there’s still a lot of work to do and measures to bring in for the government to meet its target of ending rough sleeping by 2024, but today’s budget is a welcome confirmation of their ongoing commitment. We look forward to working together with government to make its target a reality.”
The Kerslake Commission – an independent inquiry into how rough sleeping was tackled during the pandemic – has said an extra £82m per year is needed to tackle the issue and for the government to hit its target of ending rough sleeping by 2024.
The Commission also called for a renewed commitment to the three government-funded Housing First pilots underway in West Midlands, Greater Manchester and Liverpool City Region.
The funding for the pilots is due to end next year and Crisis chief executive Jon Sparkes said failure to pledge more money to the projects in the Budget has left “more than a thousand people successfully housed through Housing First schemes still waiting to know if they will have a place to live next year”.