Government policy claims to be to eradicate rough sleeping. The reality is that government policy is to eradicate rough sleepers!
A blink and you’ll miss it announcement yesterday on Saturday 23 May saw Robert Jenrick outline plans to allegedly solve rough sleeping with a less than £6 per day package of support for 6,000 rough sleepers over the next 4 years.
The announcement says:
The £160 million is part of the £381 million announced at Budget for accommodation for rough sleepers over a four year period. We have brought a substantial proportion of the funding forwards into this year to meet local need given the changed circumstances brought about by Covid-19 and the opportunity this presents. Support funding will still be profiled over 4 years to ensure people get the long term support they need. The means overall funding increases to £433 million as a result of accelerating the programme.
Cut through the crap of the announcement hyperbole and we see £52 million of new money over 4 years taking the already announced £381 million to £432 million over this 4 year period. A £13 million per year increase to pay for support to 6,000 rough sleepers, the princely sum of £41.52 in support funding per week per rough sleeper or 1 hour of support per rough sleeper per week and princely in the Machiavellian sense.
That 1 hour of “support” may see a 15 minute face-to-face session between a support worker and the former rough sleeper if its lucky and is also supposed to reassure landlords, private and social, to offer up their property to a rough sleeper direct from the streets and it will be safe and reasonable to do so for no extra in rent!
This plan takes Cloud Cuckoo Land theory to an entirely new level so reader evaluate for yourself the probability of the headline of 6,000 new properties will be available to include 3,300 in the first year.
Is it any wonder this government announcement was snuck out on a Saturday immediately ahead of a bank holiday? There are many other problems with this policy which is a government washing of hands of the great unwashed rough sleeper and not least the number of rough sleepers. We have 35,000 rough sleepers each year in England yet Government, the Labour Party, the HCLG select committee all seek to say we have 5,400 to 6,000 which is a lie. In cahoots with this downplaying agenda are Crisis and Homeless Link two of the largest homeless lobbies who are chasing the funding as are the YMCA and other homeless providers.
The COVID-19 government dictat to get all rough sleepers off the streets that has been called “Everybody In” sees some 15,000 accommodated in hotels yet the much lower figure of 5,400 to 6,000 has been issued without any evidence by Jenrick and accepted without any scrutiny by Labour and the HCLG cross-party select committee. The COVID-19 “Everybody Out” phase that will see 15,000 rough sleepers summarily evicted and back to the streets is called “Step Down” as everybody out is too literal to describe the reality.
The rough sleeper number has been downplayed for years and even the BBC said back in February this year that the 4,266 official count figure was at least 28,000. It has always been a massaged-down figure without any credibility and neither is the 5,400 hotel “Everybody In” figure of the COVID-19 pandemic which is where I begin as the imminent mass eviction of 15,000 rough sleepers from COVID-19 hotels is the immediate issue facing this rough sleeper alleged solution
3,600 rough sleepers have been placed in London hotels due to the COVID19 pandemic so why is nobody querying the claim that 5,400 rough sleepers have been accommodated for the whole of England? What innumerate idiots believe two-thirds of all rough sleepers placed in hotels have been in London? To answer my own question, the government, the opposition parties, the HCLG select committee, Crisis, Homeless Link and scores more innumerate idiots believe this 5,400 figure is correct (and many of them have agendas for wanting to believe it.) The true likely figure is nearer to 15,000 and three times this number.
In an article last week that focused on government offensively attacking journalists for their reporting of the rough sleepers being placed in hotels the respected housing journalist Jules Birch said in Inside Housing:
“In London, for example, councils estimate that they have accommodated 3,600 people but that there are 500 still on the streets at any one time, and not the same 500 in any particular week.
I have a lot of respect for Jules Birch’s work as does everyone in housing and while I agree with his defence of journalists here the fact is Jules missed the much bigger issue that of the Government claim that just 5,400 rough sleepers have been accommodated. The 5,400 figure has no credibility whatsoever and some 15,000 is a more credible figure and 15,000 rough sleepers will be summarily evicted back to the streets creating a much greater number there than before the pandemic. There is no source or evidence for the 5,400 government figure. It appeared out of the ether from government and a figure that conforms to the tell a lie often enough and people believe it and when those who believe it are charged with solving the issue such as the HCLG select committee then there is no hope their recommendations could possibly work.
The £13 million of new funding announced compares to the call for £100 million per year as one of the HCLG select committee demands as one of their six recommendations and that £100 million call was woefully inadequate in any case as it was based on the 5,400 number of rough sleepers.
The data we have shows that London councils say they have accommodated 3,600 and been unable to accommodate 500 at any one time. We also know London consistently has 21% to 22% of the England figure in the annual rough sleeper count. This suggests that the number of rough sleepers accommodated in England is somewhere between 16,364 and 17,143 rough sleepers who have been temporarily housed in Covid19 hotels, unless you choose or want to believe that London has two-thirds of all rough sleepers the 5,400 England total is pie in the sky nonsense.
Within a few days of the Government dictat for local authorities to cleanse the streets of England of the rough sleepers the same Inside Housing were saying that a huge 13,500 rough sleepers had been accommodated in England in the first few days. I discussed this here along with the District Councils Network estimate of half a million homeless as a result of COVID19 which I argued was an underestimate and it is. That 13,500 figure was from 7 weeks ago and is likely to be much higher now.
Across England we have seen local authorities release data rightly claiming credit for how quickly they have accommodated and in each case the numbers accommodated have been between 2 to 6 times the local authority’s official one-night count rough sleeper figure and this gives a range of 8,532 to 25,596 and way more than the 5,400 figure which I repeat has no data whatsoever to substantiate it. Some of the 276 submissions to the HCLG select committee are from councils stating actual numbers and one I read says we normally have 32 rough sleepers but we have accommodated 85 in the period until late April.
It appears that there is not even a clerical assistant at central government who has been given the simplest task of getting numbers of rough sleepers accommodated by each English local authority and populating the simplest spreadsheet to arrive at a total figure for England. In short nobody knows the number of rough sleepers accommodated across England during this pandemic but the one thing we do know is it is way more than the 5,400 – 6,000 figure government says.
In summary at this point, if Government believes ANY landlord will offer up properties to the rough sleeper cohort – who are correctly perceived as a higher risk tenant – for no extra in rent then they are severely mistaken as it is simply not going to happen and what’s more Government know this. Some landlords could be persuaded by the reassurance that regular support visits could bring as the property could be checked at the same time, yet the visiting ‘support’ announced equates to at most one 15-minute visit per week (the 1 hour includes travelling time and all other admin time) and provides zero landlord reassurance.
To elaborate ‘support’ is THE most vital aspect not the bricks and mortar for a former rough sleeper or indeed any high needs client group. In the year 2000 and 20 years ago the then government issued guidance to local authority decision-makers on visiting support then called floating support in HB circular A47 which said that a high need floating (visiting) support service which is what rough sleepers require was 21 hours or more per week. Yesterdays announcement if for 1 hour at most per week by stark comparison and is a drop in the ocean in terms of efficacy of support to the rough sleeper and provides no landlord reassurance whatsoever for them to offer up their properties.
Prior to this sneaked out and hasty announcement I had looked in-depth at the HCLG select committee Interim Report (HCLG-IR) and this cross-party document and enquiry was and is a whitewash. It called for £100 million per year to include support AND capital funding to bring back empty properties for rough sleeper use for example yet it was based wholly on the acceptance of the 5,400 to 6,000 rough sleeper number which is an absurd number and absurd premise for any solution as the actual number of rough sleepers is 6 times higher each year just in England.
Reader, the Jenrick and MHCLG sneak announcement has spared you of a terse 3000+ word destruction of the HCLG select committee report that could easily have been 20,000 words on the farce and whitewash it is.
From 2000 to 2003 I developed and priced-up hundreds of support services including scores of rough sleeper and other single homeless services in the THBS / Supporting People programme. My expertise in this niche area was well known if not infamous at the time and I was subsequently invited to join the government team on this in 2002 that I refused. The provider clients I advised across the country received 5% of the total SP support funding pot of £1.8 billion and some £93 million per year. I therefore write with confidence in my arguments that the £100 million HCLG-IR ask was pitiful and also that landlords will not be reassured by the less than £6 per day in support funding to one-sixth of the actual number of English rough sleepers we have each year.
I can also state that this £13 million per year of rough sleeper support funding for 2020 to 2024 is far less in actual terms than was being funding 20 years ago (from memory £59 million and £99 million in real terms today) and without the need to delve in the paper-based document archives I have in storage the support-only level of 20 years ago is what the HCLG select committee using pitiful figures from Crisis thought was enough for rough sleeper ongoing support AND to pay for thousands of empty properties to be brought back into use with capital funding!
The current government is also wedded to the policy of banning no-fault evictions still and this will also see private landlords take flight from accommodating the rough sleeper and all other single homeless cohorts as they all become riskier tenants due directly to the inability to get rid of them the no fault eviction policy creates.
The private landlord in England rehouses 90% of England’s single homeless each year and just 10% flight from PRS landlords means social landlords have to DOUBLE the 13,000 per year they currently accommodate. If its 20% PRS landlord flight then social landlords have to TREBLE the number of single homeless they accommodate. I would estimate greater than 50% PRS flight from the single homeless tenant group which includes the rough sleeper when no fault evictions are banned. When social landlords don’t step up as they can’t due to decades of not building the one-bed property unless they sub-divide tens of thousands of existing properties, which they won’t do, then we could easily see 50,000 or even 75,000 rough sleepers in England each year very quickly and way above the pre-COVID19 best estimate of 35,000 per year.
The government announcement is not just inadequate and have zero chance of working, it amounts to a cull of the rough sleeper by death on the streets – the eradication of the rough sleeper not the eradication of rough sleeping IS government policy.
UPDATE – Within 1o minutes of releasing the above Jon Sparkes the chief executive of Crisis releases this series of tweets:
Thankfully, Reader this level of sycophantic bullshit spares you the need to say how native and fifth-columnist and truly incompetent Crisis is when it comes to single homelessness. They are a truly offensive reprehensible organisation who care not a jot for the rough sleeper or any other form of single homeless. Jon Sparkes must go!
UPDATE – Monday 25 May
To further evidence my point about the incredulous government claims over number of rough sleepers I have just seen a West Midlands Combined Authority article (WMCA) dated 23 May 2020 which says:
“More than 800 existing or potential rough sleepers have been housed by local authorities in the region throughout the crisis…”
The official rough sleeper count figure as at August 2019 for the seven councils who make up WMCA is / was 115. So the 7 councils in the West Midlands have accommodated SEVEN TIMES the number of rough sleepers in hotels than their combined official rough sleeper count figures!
UPDATE 26 May 2020
Look here! In this BBC website article Dame Louise Casey admits I was right over the £52 million extra money (though she does NOT say this is over 4 years which it is) AND she also confirms that 15,000 rough sleepers have been accommodated and not the 5,400 to 6,000 figure that Robert Jenrick lies about and the figure that Crisis and the HCLG committee also accept.
The Casey issue
And here’s the chair of the HCLG select committee stating it was the absurd 5,400 to 6,000 figure
And here is the Tory 5th columnist Jon Sparkes evidence to the HCLG select committee
Keep being effusive Jon Sparkes and how do you not hurt your elbow by sitting on it all the time?
UPDATE 27 May – Lancaster City Council 37 rough sleepers housed, official count 6!