Advertisement - Content continues below
Housing

Robert Jenrick says ending rough sleeping ‘isn’t high enough on the government’s agenda’

The former housing secretary told a Conservative Party conference fringe event that failure to end homelessness is a “stain on the record” of the Tories.

Former Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has warned there is not enough political will in the government to hit its target of ending rough sleeping by 2024.

Jenrick, who was sacked last month, told a Conservative Party Conference fringe event that getting other departments to “step up” will be a challenge his successor Michael Gove faces if he is to deliver on the Conservative manifesto promise.

“Some issues stay with you long after you have left a job. For me, this is true of homelessness – even though I have taken an involuntary sabbatical from government,” said Jenrick at the event hosted by Crisis and think tank Centre for Social Justice.

Subscribe to The Big Issue

From just £3 per week

Take a print or digital subscription to The Big Issue and provide a critical lifeline to our work. With each subscription we invest every penny back into supporting the network of sellers across the UK. A subscription also means you'll never miss the weekly editions of an award-winning publication, with each issue featuring the leading voices on life, culture, politics and social activism.

“Other government departments need to step up – and currently they aren’t. The question to ask is: Is this issue high enough on the agenda in other government departments? Frankly, it isn’t.”

The backbench Conservative MP also said the failure to prevent rising rough sleeping was a “stain on the record of us as Conservatives” according to Inside Housing.

Rough sleeping decreased during Jenrick’s tenure as housing secretary, according to official figures, after he took over the role in July 2019.

Advertisement - Content continues below
Advertisement - Content continues below

The count taken later that year found 4,266 slept rough across England – down nine per cent on 2018 – while there was a further reduction of 37 per cent as 2,688 people were counted as living on the streets. However, homelessness experts warn that the figures, taken from single-night counts and estimates, tend to underestimate the scale of the issue.


And while Jenrick’s tenure in cabinet saw declining figures, there were still almost 1,000 more people on the streets in 2020 than a decade earlier when the Conservatives came into power as part of the coalition government. 

The Everyone In scheme had a big impact on the recent decline. The programme saw more than 37,000 rough sleepers and vulnerable people protected in hotels and other emergency accommodation during the pandemic. Of those, an estimated 26,000 had moved into settled accommodation as of January.

Jenrick described the success of the scheme as “one of the few silver linings in the ‘dark cloud’ of Covid” at the event. He also added that rough sleeping and homelessness are “solvable issues that must be tackled”.

Solutions were among the discussions at the event with Jenrick joined by Cities of London and Westminster MP Nickie Aiken as well as Crisis chief executive Jon Sparkes and Centre for Social Justice’s Joe Shalam.

Aiken continued her campaign to end the Vagrancy Act – the Victorian era law that criminalises rough sleeping.

Meanwhile, Sparkes spoke of the need to prevent homelessness in the first place through Housing First, genuinely affordable homes and support for people like survivors of domestic abuse and prison leavers who are at a higher risk of homelessness.

Big Issue Foundation

Donate to support vendors today

Your gift today will mean Big Issue vendors will get the support they need to progress forward in life. You will be supporting vendors in key areas including housing, finance, mental health and employment.

The Big Issue is also working to prevent surging homelessness in the months ahead through the Stop Mass Homelessness campaign.

The Big Issue is calling on the government to pay off £360m of rent arrears racked up during the pandemic, provide additional support for those struggling to pay rent or mortgages as well as suspending no-fault evictions to keep people in their homes. The campaign is also urging action to provide jobs and training in sustainable industries to keep people in work.

You can show your support for the Stop Mass Homelessness campaign by signing our petition.

Advertisement - Content continues below

Support The Big Issue and our vendors this Christmas

Every time you buy a copy of The Big Issue, subscribe or donate, you are helping our vendors to work their way out of poverty by providing 'a hand up not a hand out.' You’re helping Big Issue vendors achieve their #BigWish

Recommended for you

Read All
Grenfell, Lewis Hamilton and the Kingspan sponsorship row: What is it all about?
Grenfell

Grenfell, Lewis Hamilton and the Kingspan sponsorship row: What is it all about?

Almost 700 homeless people died in 2020 - and real figure could be higher
Homelessness

Almost 700 homeless people died in 2020 - and real figure could be higher

The innovative 'nap pads' that could save the lives of homeless people
Homelessness

The innovative 'nap pads' that could save the lives of homeless people

Homeless deaths surge by almost 20 per cent in Scotland
Homelessness

Homeless deaths surge by almost 20 per cent in Scotland

Most Popular

Read All
Simon Le Bon: 'I’m very lucky. Solo artists have nobody to tell them they’re being an arsehole'
1.

Simon Le Bon: 'I’m very lucky. Solo artists have nobody to tell them they’re being an arsehole'

The six best things that happened at Stormzy’s Christmas party for the kids of Croydon
2.

The six best things that happened at Stormzy’s Christmas party for the kids of Croydon

The innovative 'nap pads' that could save the lives of homeless people
3.

The innovative 'nap pads' that could save the lives of homeless people

Michael Sheen: 'I’ve essentially turned myself into a social enterprise, a not-for-profit actor'
4.

Michael Sheen: 'I’ve essentially turned myself into a social enterprise, a not-for-profit actor'

With temperatures dropping and fewer shoppers on the high street, our vendors need you now more than ever. Buy, subscribe or donate.