Opinion

Rise in rough sleeping is a 'great concern'. But we're still aiming to end it for good

Writing exclusively for The Big Issue, homelessness minister Felicity Buchan admits rising rough sleeping is a huge concern as she announces £34 million investment in new beds to help people off the streets

rough sleeping and homelessness

The Westminster government has promised to end rough sleeping by the end of 2024. Image: coldsnowstorm / Getty Images

From all those I have met during my time as minister, I know that homelessness and rough sleeping is no respecter of status. It can happen to anyone.

Today marks one year since we launched our Rough Sleeping Strategy which set out our plan not just to reduce rough sleeping but to end it completely.

Together with our partners across local government, charities and the private sector we have achieved much in the last year. I am incredibly grateful for their tireless work and our ambition remains as bright as ever.

Nearly 5,000 new homes have now been completed through the Rough Sleeping Accommodation Programme (RSAP) giving stable, long term accommodation to those sleeping rough. Our Rough Sleeping Drug and Alcohol Treatment Grant has helped over 10,600 vulnerable people access the help they need, and our Accommodation for Ex-Offenders programme has supported 2,750 ex-offenders into their own homes in the private rented sector.

The long-term trends support this: rough sleeping numbers are 28% lower than in 2019 before the pandemic and rough sleeping has continued to decrease or stayed the same in around 46% of local authorities, as shown in the latest annual snapshot published in February 2023.

But I am not blind to the challenges we face. Overall rough sleeping numbers have risen for the first time in four years, which is of great concern.

Today we are announcing £34.6 million of additional funding allocated through the Rough Sleeping Initiative, on top of the original allocation of up to £500m, announced a year ago. This will provide funding for up to 4,300 additional beds and 630 more support staff and will give local authorities the opportunity to take a long-term stance on ending rough sleeping. It will allow councils to respond to emerging challenges, to prevent those at risk from experiencing a night on the streets and to provide critical support for those sleeping rough to access accommodation for a sustained period.

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The funding will also support areas to assess their progress towards ending rough sleeping and fortify their data collection infrastructure. This is something I have championed as minister and see as vital to our mission. We need to equip councils and local partners with the best possible data available to enable us to track progress. 

StreetLink a vital tool allowing local services to connect with people sleeping rough and help them off the streets as quickly as possible. It empowers a willing public that wants to make a difference so that no one sleeping rough is ever ignored, but rather supported and cared for.

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This is a great example of the government working hand-in-hand with the homelessness sector and its partners in local government to rise to the challenges we face to help people sleeping rough. This provides not just a roof over someone’s head but also gives them the support and encouragement to  rebuild their lives and to realise their own hopes, dreams and ambitions.

There is agreement on the importance of tackling rough sleeping across government and with parliamentary colleagues from all sides of the House.

And it is precisely this spirit of cooperation combined with the inspiring work of social enterprises, such as The Big Issue, that will ensure we will end rough sleeping for good.

Do you have a story to tell or opinions to share about this? We want to hear from you. Get in touch and tell us more.

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