£3.2 million to support rough sleepers during coronavirus outbreak

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ROUGH sleepers, or those at risk of rough sleeping will be supported by £3.2 million of initial emergency funding if they need to self-isolate to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

The funding will be available to all local authorities in England and will reimburse them for the cost of providing accommodation and services to those sleeping on the streets to help them successfully self-isolate.

It is in addition to the £492 million committed in 2020 to 2021 to support the government’s ambition to end rough sleeping in this Parliament, a £124 million increase in funding from the previous year.

This forms part of £643 million in funding to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping over the next four years.

This initial emergency response funding will ensure swift support is offered to people who are unable to self-isolate, such as those staying in night shelters or assessment hubs, as well as people who are currently sleeping rough.

Communities Secretary Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP commented on the announcement: “Public safety and protecting the most vulnerable people in society from coronavirus is this government’s top priority.

“We are working closely with councils and charities to ensure they have the support they need throughout this period.

“The initial funding that I’ve announced today [17 March] will ensure councils are able to put emergency measures in place to help some of the most vulnerable people in our society to successfully self-isolate.

“I would urge anyone who is concerned about someone sleeping rough to use the government’s StreetLink app to alert local support services who can reach out to those in need at this difficult time.”

The initial emergency funding represents an initial first step to help local authorities and frontline services put emergency measures in place.

The government will continue to work closely with local authorities to keep this under review and ensure people have access to the support they need.

Public Health England has also released guidance for providers of hostels and day centres on how to handle suspected cases of coronavirus to assist staff and visitors in dealing with the impact of the virus.

The guidance outlines:

  • what centres and hostels should do if they have had a confirmed case
  • use of shared spaces – such as kitchens and bathrooms – where individuals who live with others are required to self-isolate
  • what to do if anyone becomes unwell on site with the symptoms
  • special considerations for residents and users, who are drug or alcohol users and may be more vulnerable to the effects of the virus
  • guidance on cleaning and disinfection and rubbish disposal

Dr Yvonne Doyle, Medical Director at Public Health England added: “People sleeping rough are often in poor health and are particularly vulnerable.

“That’s why this funding is so important, ensuring that rough sleepers who get symptoms have somewhere safe and protective to stay, and helping to prevent the spread of the infection.”

The announcement follows a raft of measures being introduced by the government to tackle the effects of the virus, including a range of new measures announced at Budget:

  • a COVID-19 Response fund, initially set at £5 billion
  • a new £500 million Hardship Fund so local authorities can support economically vulnerable people and households

Engagement with councils is also ramping up as part of work to ensure that local government is fully prepared:

  • a new taskforce to strengthen local resilience plans to help tackle the outbreak of coronavirus
  • Communities Secretary chaired teleconferences for mayors, local leaders and chief executives to update on the latest guidance and best practice
  • continued regular engagement with all 38 of England’s Local Resilience Forum chairs

As well as continuing to work closely with councils, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government will also continue to work with Public Health England and the Department of Health and Social Care to monitor the situation closely and to ensure that ‘the most vulnerable people in our society continue to get the support they need throughout this period.’