Liam Byrne, Keir Starmer and Labour mayors join forces to call on Government to seize “once in a generation opportunity” to tackle rough sleeping

Liam Byrne MP, Shadow Mayor of the West Midlands, has joined with Keir Starmer, Leader of the Labour Party, and Labour’s directly elected mayors to call on the Government to honour its commitment to end rough sleeping by seizing the “once in a generation opportunity” presented by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The demand comes alongside of a virtual meeting today [Thursday] between the Labour leader and Labour’s directly elected ‘metro mayors’.

According to official figures*, rough sleeping across the West Midlands Combined Authority tripled between 2010 and 2019.

During the coronavirus pandemic more than 5,000 rough sleepers nationally have been offered emergency accommodation, including in hotels. However, Ministers have so far failed to commit to supporting those rough sleepers into longer-term accommodation.

Today’s statement from Labour warns that government inaction “could see rough sleepers ending up back on the streets”, calling for “certainty over the future funding arrangements.”

It goes on: “When this crisis is over, we cannot return to business as usual. If the government is serious about its commitment to end rough sleeping, not is the time to act.”

Liam Byrne said: “Homelessness is a moral emergency. There is no need for anyone to spend a night on the streets. We’ve shown during the Coronavirus pandemic that where there is political will, we can put a roof over everyone’s head. We cannot return to the days of rough sleeping in doorways and we certainly allow those who are now housed to be turfed out on the streets once this public health crisis is over. Our Tory Mayor needs to get on board, join Keir Starmer and me and tell the Government that we simply will not allow them to turn their backs on rough sleepers.”

Labour’s statement in full:

Coronavirus is the biggest crisis our country has faced for a generation. But it has also presented us with a once in a generation opportunity: to help thousands of rough sleepers off the streets for good.

Thanks to the incredible work of local government, and dedicated funding from central Government, that opportunity is within our grasp.

The Government has rightly committed to protecting vulnerable rough sleepers for the duration of the pandemic. However, the dedicated funding to house rough sleepers is set to run out and no clear plans or resources have been put in place by Government for what happens next.

The Government needs to provide clarity on their 'Everyone In' policy, to include those made homeless during the lockdown, and certainty over the future funding arrangements. Without this we could see rough sleepers ending up back on the streets. We also need to see policy changes for those with no recourse to public funds, and changes to Local Housing Allowance and Housing Benefit. These changes will help us move rough sleepers into longer-term accommodation and provide wrap-around support to help them stay there.

We restate today our commitment to doing everything in our power to ensure that no one who has been helped off the streets during this period is forced to return.

That includes non-UK nationals who wouldn’t normally be able to access welfare and other support.

But to achieve this we need the government to make the same pledge – and to back it up with actions. Warm words are worth nothing to those who were sleeping on the streets, and people across the country will not forgive us if this opportunity is missed. Mayors and council leaders are doing everything possible, but we need that commitment to be matched by government.

When this crisis is over, we cannot return to business as usual. Rough sleepers, some of whom are receiving support for the first time, have been brought safely off the streets. We cannot let that progress go to waste.

This is an unprecedented opportunity to 'build back better' and avoid a return to business as usual. If the government is serious about its commitment to end rough sleeping, now is the time to act.

Signed by:

Keir Starmer MP, Leader of the Labour Party;

Thangam Debbonaire MP, Shadow Housing Secretary;

Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London;

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester;

Steve Rotheram, Mayor of Liverpool City Region;

Dan Jarvis MP, Mayor of Sheffield City Region; and

Jamie Driscoll, Mayor of North Tyne.

Source: MHCLG Annual Rough Sleeping Snapshot

Notes to Editors:

“West Midlands” region referred to is thers to old Euro constituency. WMCA figure is total number of recorded rough sleepers in constituent local authorities Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall and Wolverhampton. Government data is found here

A leaked document from Greater Manchester Combined Authority revealed last week that the Government would not be giving any further dedicated funding for the ‘Everyone In’ scheme, and was encouraging councils to use their own resources to move rough sleepers into longer-term accommodation according to their statutory duties.

Homelessness charity St Mungo’s on Tuesday published a set of five demands from the government to ensure rough sleepers don't end up back on the street after the lockdown lifts

London Councils, the cross-party group for London Boroughs, last week issued a call for ‘urgent clarity’ on rough sleeping next steps.