Rough sleeping aim is 'meaningless'
The commitment to end rough sleeping by 2012 is ‘meaningless’ because there is no accurate measure of the scale of the problem, the Liberal Democrats have claimed.
Sarah Teather, the party’s housing spokeswoman, said: ‘The new target is meaningless unless it is based on reliable information rather than on the discredited street counts.’
‘To really end rough sleeping once and for all, the government must significantly increase social housing supply so that people have settled homes to live in.’
Adam Sampson, Shelter
In the strategy the government admits the street counts give a ‘limited snapshot’ of the scale of the problem, and promises to work with local authorities to introduce a more accurate measure.
Grant Shapps, the Conservative shadow housing minister, also voiced concerns about the data. ‘The problems with the way the number of rough sleepers is calculated needs to be addressed before solutions can be fully effective,’ he said.
Charities working with homeless people welcomed the strategy. Leslie Morphy, chief executive of Crisis, said: ‘In 21st century Britain it is a scandal that people still sleep on our streets.’
But there were also some concerns. Shelter chief executive Adam Sampson said: ‘Ending rough sleeping by 2012 is a bold and ambitious commitment, and one that is very welcome.
‘However, it is not just about bringing down the numbers and getting people off the streets; it’s about providing appropriate accommodation and support over the long term to enable people to rebuild their lives.’
He added: ‘To really end rough sleeping once and for all, the government must significantly increase social housing supply so that people have settled homes to live in.’
Charles Fraser, chief executive of London homelessness charity St Mungo’s, said the strategy does not address the issue of people with poor mental health sleeping rough. ‘We are calling on the government for an urgent plan addressing this,’ he said.
Rough sleeping strategy – the key points
- Sets out intent to end rough sleeping in England by 2012.
- States current work to end rough sleeping is effective at getting people off the streets, but new people then come in – such as migrants from eastern Europe. Notes that economic problems could further drive numbers.
- Whether government policies reach rough sleepers is a ‘litmus test’ of effectiveness at reaching the most excluded members of society.
- Central government will:
- provide housing options, and strengthen measures to stop people becoming homeless
- share best practice, and set up a private-sector leasing scheme for move-on accommodation
- extend activities that motivate people, such as the Places of Change programme
- tackle worklessness
- improve access to health and social care services for people with multiple needs
- help local authorities work with young runaways
- increase efforts to tackle rough sleeping among new migrants.
- To help people who are sleeping rough the government will:
- promote knowledge of local services
- develop a community training programme
- promote personalised services – such as individual budgets; improve user involvement in services.
- The strategy acknowledges that existing data collection only gives a ‘limited snapshot’ of the scale of the problem. It promises to help local authorities monitor rough sleepers, and improve ways of gauging the needs of rough sleepers, and the effectiveness of interventions.
- £200m has been set aside to implement the strategy over the next three years. The government will:
- launch a ‘champions’ programme to bring together experts on rough sleeping, and set up a £1m small grants programme and a £2.5m social enterprise initiative known as Spark.
- support councils to ‘work strategically to end rough sleeping’, and work with the mayor’s office in London.
- work to integrate different aspects of homelessness work, and improve cooperation between government departments.