The Government is being put under pressure to explain why they are refusing to revive the “Everyone In” scheme which gave 15,000 rough sleepers a room in a budget hotel in the Spring.

The Labour Party along with housing charities including Crisis, Shelter, St Mungo’s and Homeless Link are all urging the Government to reinstate the scheme which is estimated to have saved hundreds of lives the first time around. Many people will now find themselves without a roof over their heads in dreadful circumstances and the weather is worsening. Young people are especially hard hit during lockdowns as temporary “sofa surfing” from one friend’s house to the next is no longer an option. Why won’t the Government do the right thing and give them the same kind of support they realised was necessary back in the Spring?

The answer is to take a look at the scheme they have launched instead. The “Protect Programme” provides extra (but still inadequate) funding for the 10 areas of the country with the highest numbers of rough sleepers but leaves other local authorities short. According to Homeless Link “...current funding levels are not enough for local areas to provide everyone who needs it with a safe place to stay. In addition, local authorities need clear leadership and direction from Government to enable them to support everyone, regardless of their immigration status or priority need, this winter.” ( 12th Nov 20). Just as with school meals during the holidays, the Government is trying to shift responsibility onto local authorities, without giving them the resources to deal with the issue.

Local authorities have been hit hard by the pandemic. According to an article on the District Council website (May 2020) Craven was set to be amongst the top 3 hardest hit local authorities due to loss of income from tourism, parking fees and leisure during lockdown. The Council has committed to supporting rough sleepers and if you see someone sleeping rough they ask that you let them know on 01756 706475, but why should Councils be put in the position of having to do yet more prioritising of essential services during a national crisis when they have been starved of everyday funding for the last 10 years? “By 2020, local authorities will have faced a reduction to core funding from the Government of nearly £16 billion over the preceding decade. That means that councils will have lost 60p out of every £1 the Government had provided to spend on local services in the last eight years.” (“Local Government Funding: Moving the Conversation On” - 2018).

The “Everyone In” scheme worked. The Government’s refusal to reinstate it due to penny pinching and reluctance to take ownership of the issue is a failure of common sense and forward planning, as were the school meals fiasco and the delay in extending the furlough scheme, both of which have ended up on the long list of embarrassing U-turns they have been forced to make. Let's hope this turns out to be yet another backtrack to be added to that list.

Amanda Caven