The Independent Review on Drugs is an opportunity for bold change

    Today, St Mungo’s put forward a written submission to the Independent Review on Drugs by Dame Carol Black. Here Emma Cookson, Senior Policy and Public Affairs Officer at St Mungo’s explains what this review means and the primary calls St Mungo’s is making towards it.

    This is the second part of the review which is examining drug prevention, treatment and recovery (the findings of the first part were published in February this year).This is a huge opportunity to reflect the needs of St Mungo’s clients, and the many other hundreds of thousands who are homeless and face multiple layers of disadvantage.

    Sadly, as we are all too aware, there is a significant relationship between homelessness and drug and alcohol problems, which becomes even more pronounced amongst people sleeping rough. Data from the Combined Homelessness and Information Network (CHAIN), a multi-agency database recording information about people sleeping rough in London, shows that 62% of people sleeping rough had a recorded drug or alcohol need in 2018-19.

    And it’s not just that people who are sleeping rough have a higher likelihood of drug use – they are also more likely to die from it. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) data shows that in 2018, 726 people died while rough sleeping, with a staggering 40% of all those deaths related to drug poisoning. And it’s getting worse. The St Mungo’s Knocked Back report earlier this year showed that the number of deaths caused by drug poisoning increased by 135% between 2013 and 2018 and by 55% in just one year in 2018. This is an alarming increase.

    For many of our clients, drug use, alcohol use, poor mental health and homelessness are interlocking and mutually reinforcing problems. CHAIN data shows that over half of all people with a recorded drug and alcohol problem have a co-occurring mental health problem. These problems create a vicious cycle from which it is hard to escape. If you just address one of these without tackling the other, you are unlikely to be successful. But this is all too often what the current system does.

    A St Mungo’s Manager set out the disjoint between systems:

    Someone goes into prison and whilst they’re in prison they’re detoxed. But then they’re released and told to go to housing department who say they’re not priority need. They’re then picked up by an outreach team and the only place available is a hostel where there are lots of drug users. This isn’t going to help them in their recovery.

    The vicious circle continues. 

    Health, homelessness, and drugs and alcohol services are all designed and funded as if people fit into one box, rather than the reality that people’s problems are complex and interwoven. They cannot be addressed one-by-one but need to be approached holistically.

    This is why in our written submission to the Black Review we’re calling for the following:

    • Integrated, person centred and holistic services.

    To best support people we need integrated support and housing pathways, with a treatment package arranged for them in a way which works for them in that particular point in their recovery journey. One of the best ways to do this is through increasing joint commissioning and explore longer contracts. This would help health, homelessness and drug and alcohol services to work better together and encourage them to treat clients holistically rather than providing insular support related only to one need, whilst clients are caught in the gaps in between services. Longer contracts provide the time to build practice and culture change.

    • Access to affordable and appropriate housing.

    Access to affordable and appropriate housing can act as both prevention and cure for drug misuse. Therefore we want the Government to improve access to truly affordable housing by increasing investment to build 90,000 homes for social rent every year for 15 years, and improving security for tenants in the private rented sector by, for instance, re-aligning Local Housing Allowance Rates to cover the 50th percentile of local rents. There also needs to be an expansion in Housing First services (backed by sufficient funding) and an increase in supported housing provision. This would help prevent individuals from becoming homeless, and rapidly relieve their homelessness if they are forced to sleep rough.

    • Further funding for drug support services.

    There needs to be more funding for services which are interlinked with drug misuse, such as homelessness support services, to support an integrated approach which looks at the whole system and situations which both cause and exacerbate drug misuse. Previous research from St Mungo’s has shown that £1 billion less is being spent on housing related support services per year (which help many people with complex needs, such as drug misuse, gain and retain accommodation) than a decade ago. We are therefore recommending that the Government invest an extra £1 billion a year in services that prevent homelessness and end rough sleeping. This money should be ring-fenced so it can’t be spent on anything else. This echoes our calls in our Home for Good campaign. 

    This review is timely. In the midst of this global pandemic, the health inequalities suffered by those who are homeless have become even starker. This is a chance to put forward bold solutions, which recognise the need to see drug prevention and recovery as interwoven with other systems and services. People aren’t boxes — they have messy, complex lives. We need a whole systems approach which recognises this, so that we can effectively help people.

    The Government wants to end rough sleeping, is it going about it the right way?

    Last week the Government released new figures on the number of people sleeping rough in England. Our Head of Policy, Campaigns and Research, Bea Orchard, takes a deeper look at the figures and explains why you should sign our new petition.

    It’s not unusual for election promises to be greeted with scepticism, and perhaps many took this view of the Conservative Party manifesto commitment to end rough sleeping. It’s still very early days, but since the election in December there have been some positive signs the Government is determined to achieve its target of ending rough sleeping by 2024.

    The Prime Minister has made two visits to homelessness services in London to talk about the commitment, the Rough Sleeping Initiative (RSI) Fund has been extended and expanded beyond 2019/20, and last week a further £236m was announced for ‘housing first style’ accommodation to support up to 6,000 people away from sleeping on the street.

    The annual rough sleeping statistics for England were also published last week, providing an opportunity to scrutinise progress so far, and the distance still to travel.

    What do the latest rough sleeping statistics tell us?

    The statistics show the number of people estimated to be sleeping rough on a single night in England in autumn 2019. They show a 9% decrease taking the total number from 4,677 in 2018 to 4,266 in 2019. This is the second year in a row the number has fallen, which is something of a relief, given the truly shocking rate at which rough sleeping had been rising since 2010.

    However, the number of people sleeping rough on a single night in 2019 is still 141% higher than in 2010 when the current method for recording rough sleeping was introduced.

    A more detailed look at the statistics suggests some of the measures taken by government as part of the Rough Sleeping Strategy are having a positive impact. 244 local authority areas have now received some funding from the RSI Fund since it was introduced in March 2018 and overall these areas reported a 12% decrease in rough sleeping in 2019, compared to the previous year. While rough sleeping in the 73 areas without any funding has continued to rise.

    Not all areas in receipt of RSI funding reported a fall in the number sleeping rough locally. And only 50% of areas in receipt of funding for the first time in 2019 reported a decrease. This should be a reminder that services supporting people to find and keep a home take time to set up, and that new and expanded services are likely to find people who weren’t getting any help before.

    However, it should also be a reminder to government that funding for outreach services and short-term accommodation can only do so much when wider factors such as cuts to council budgets, housing benefit and a shortage of social housing mean more people are pushed into homelessness in the first place and struggle to get the long-term support they need to recover.

    How helpful are the statistics?

    The statistics are widely criticised for not offering a more accurate account of the total number of people sleeping rough over the entire year, rather than on one night. What they do offer is a useful indicator of the relative size of the problem and particular trends which can be monitored over many years. This is essential for holding the Government to account and keeping ministers focused on ensuring a significant, sustained reduction in the number of people exposed to the dangers of sleeping rough.

    Can government action end rough sleeping?

    St Mungo’s Home for Good campaign is calling on government action to end rough sleeping because we know it can be done. By 2010, 20 years of government action meant the end of rough sleeping was in sight.

    We also know that since 2008, nearly £1bn has been cut from vital homelessness services. Services that provide specialist one-to-one support to help people cope with complex problems like poor mental health, substance use and domestic abuse, and prevent people from sleeping rough in the first place by helping them before they become homeless.

    If the Government is going to end rough sleeping in a sustainable way, then it needs to restore funding to the levels invested before the financial crash and ensure that this funding is maintained long-term. This is why we are calling on government to invest an extra £1bn every year in services that prevent homelessness and end rough sleeping and ring-fence the money so it can’t be spent on anything else.

    726 people died while sleeping rough or in emergency accommodation in 2018. The consequences of not taking further action to prevent homelessness and end rough sleeping should be unthinkable.

    We’re certainly not planning to let the Government lose sight of its commitment on this crucial issue. You can help too by supporting our Home for Good campaign and signing Jan’s petition calling on the Housing Secretary to ensure everyone has the support they need to find and keep a home for good.

    Sign the petition here.

    Knocked Back: A tragic loss of human potential

    Our Knocked Back report revealed that at least 12,000 people who are homeless are missing out on potentially life-saving drug and alcohol treatment. Oliver Standing, Director of Collective Voice, reflects on the report’s findings.

    Collective Voice is the national alliance of drug and alcohol treatment charities, whose members collectively support 200,000 people every year. A substantial proportion of these people will not only be dealing with a substance misuse problem but with other areas of severe and multiple disadvantage, including homelessness.

    For this reason, we welcome the publication of St Mungo’s latest report, Knocked Back, highlighting the growing prevalence of drug and alcohol use by people sleeping rough, and its increasingly tragic consequences.

    It will be sadly unsurprising to many in our sector to read that drugs and alcohol caused the deaths of 380 people sleeping rough in 2018 (over half the total number of people who died). But we must remain shocked and appalled at this growing public health crisis, and stay resolute in our ambition to reach the huge numbers sleeping rough who desperately need treatment but at present are not getting it – 12,000 people according to the St Mungo’s report.

    Every year people in the substance misuse treatment sector anticipate with sickening dread the latest drug death statistics. And with every year in recent times bringing more bad news, the dread only increases. In 2018, we know that hundreds of people sleeping rough died as a result of drugs or alcohol. The total number of drug related deaths are even higher, at 4,359. That’s the largest amount since we started counting in 1993 and a 16% leap from 2017’s figures. Those statistics alone make for disturbing reading.

    But what’s really disturbing are the human stories behind the statistics. Our communities have lost fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters, who will no longer fulfil the promise their parents saw in their bright eyes as children, will no longer laugh or love. These are not just numbers, but a tragic loss of human potential.

    It can sometimes seem hard to determine the real-world impact of public policy making. But surely the seemingly unstoppable increase of this particular type of death marks a clear and significant failure of the public policy and political leadership necessary to protect a very vulnerable group of people.

    When it comes to people who use drugs and sleep rough we can’t ignore stigma as a factor. When people are dying on our streets from conditions we know how to treat we must ask ourselves the question — what is different about this group of people that allows this to happen well into 21st century Britain?

    The most frustrating aspect of this? That the evidence on what works is so very clear. We have a world class compendium of evidence in our “Orange Book” and multiple NICE guidelines. We have a substance use workforce not short of ambition, compassion and expertise.

    It’s welcome to see St Mungo’s Knocked Back report make clear the link between homelessness and drug related deaths. It demonstrates how some substance use outreach services, so vital in reaching people sleeping rough, have been lost in the blizzard of local authority cuts.

    While in 2013, local government was handed the responsibility for commissioning life-saving substance misuse treatment services, but it was asked to do so with one hand tied behind its back. In the eight years to 2020 local government has lost 60 pence in every pound it received from national government.

    It’s welcome to see the report stress the importance of close partnership work across the domains of severe and multiple disadvantage. People’s challenges simply do not resolve into the neat concepts such as ‘substance use’ or ‘mental ill health’ we use to think about the delivery of public services.

    On the frontline, practitioners have of course always known that partnership working across those boundaries is essential. The same can be said for service-managers, commissioners and Chief Executives. National programmes such as Fulfilling Lives and MEAM are making robust coordinated attempts to bring together these services at the local level. These are all to be welcomed.

    In the sector, we have the compassion, ambition and expertise to meet the needs of a great proportion of the people we support — we just lack the resource.

    The government’s new addictions strategy and monitoring unit should both be unveiled this year and will provide important opportunities to drive much needed change.

    I implore the government to set out an ambitious plan for preventing further deaths through the delivery of adequately funded evidence-based services — and I know that effective partnership between the substance use and homeless sectors will be essential in supporting the delivery of such a plan.

    Read our Knocked Back research.

    Find out more about Collective Voice.

    The new NHS plan for mental health services has a clear offer for people sleeping rough

    For organisations who have campaigned for many years on homeless health, the NHS Mental Health Implementation Plan is a cause for celebration. Beatrice Orchard, St Mungo’s Head of Policy, Campaigns and Research, explains why the plan must deliver on its ambition to make sure everyone sleeping rough can access the mental health support they need.

    Photo of Beatrice Orchard, Head of Policy, Campaigns and Research
    Beatrice Orchard, Head of Policy, Campaigns and Research

    When the Government’s Rough Sleeping Strategy was published exactly one year ago by MHCLG, there were some positive signs that other government departments would also be doing their bit to reverse the dramatic rise in the number of people sleeping rough in England.

    One of the most solid commitments was in relation to improving mental health support for people who are sleeping on the streets. Last month, the details of this commitment became clearer when the NHS Mental Health Implementation Plan was published.

    The plan is clear that by 2023-24, 20 areas with high levels of rough sleeping will have established new specialist mental health provision for people sleeping rough, which will be made possible with £30m of central NHS funding invested for this specific purpose.

    This is a fantastic result for St Mungo’s Stop the Scandal campaign and our continued efforts to press the Government for investment in specialist mental health services to ensure people sleeping rough can access the support they need.

    Sleeping rough and mental health – the links

    It is fairly easy to understand that sleeping rough has a negative impact on a person’s mental health and wellbeing, as well as their physical health.

    Evidence shows people sleeping rough are 17 times more likely to be victims of violence compared to the general population. News reports describe horrifying attacks and abuse on people sleeping rough and our clients tell us about their experiences of feeling lonely, frightened and even suicidal.

    Furthermore, we mustn’t overlook the fact that some people sleeping rough have already been through many traumatic experiences in their lives, including violence and abuse from a young age.

    All of these experiences can cause mental health problems to develop or worsen, but also impact on the type of mental health support people need and how easy they find services to access.

    New avenues into support

    The new, NHS-funded, specialist services will make sure that people sleeping rough can access to clinical mental health support by integrating with existing homeless outreach, accommodation and physical healthcare services.

    They will be required to adopt a trauma-informed approach, known to help improve the psychological and emotional wellbeing of people with complex needs. We also expect the new services to help people who have drug and alcohol problems and are currently excluded from some mainstream mental health services as a result.

    This specialist support breaks down all of the barriers people sleeping rough often face when trying to get help to improve their mental health. Really effective specialist teams can also influence mainstream health services in their local area, encouraging them to become more knowledgeable and understanding of the needs of people who are sleeping rough.

    So far, so good. But what about people sleeping rough in other areas not in receipt of this new funding?

    A welcome step forward

    Research shows 4 in 10 people sleeping rough in England have an identified mental health problem. The latest data from the CHAIN reports on rough sleeping in London shows 50% of people sleeping rough in the capital in 2018-19 had a mental health support need.

    It is welcome, therefore, that the new plan for mental health requires all areas of the country to complete a mental health needs assessment for people sleeping rough and take action to increase access to mental health services for this group.

    This new approach to mental health for people sleeping rough is a real step forward.

    Specialist mental health services have been tried in the past. We know they can make a dramatic difference to individuals’ lives, and help to reduce rough sleeping by supporting people to move on from homelessness for good.

    Better still, it doesn’t stop with specialist services this time. Instead all NHS services will need to think about how people sleeping rough can access the healthcare they need in order to rebuild their lives.

    St Mungo’s will be watching closely and encouraging all areas to ensure the plan delivers.

    Ending homelessness? Fund domestic abuse services

    In May, the Government announced proposals for a new legal duty to help secure the future of domestic abuse refuges. With partners from across the housing, homelessness and women’s sectors, St Mungo’s is calling for support for survivors facing homelessness.

    Photo fo Cat Glew, Women's Strategy Manager for St Mungo'sSt Mungo’s helps thousands of women and men find a home away from the dangers of the street. But home isn’t always a safe place.

    Many St Mungo’s clients are survivors of domestic abuse. St Mungo’s data from 2016 shows that at least 54% of our female residents with a history of rough sleeping had experienced violence or abuse from a partner or family member. A 2015 study found that as many as 92% of homeless women had experienced violence or abuse during their lifetime.

    Creating safety for people facing harm from those they love and trust is a serious challenge. St Mungo’s works with specialist domestic abuse organisations who support our clients, so we welcome proposals to try to provide a more certain future for domestic abuse services.

    Working with housing, domestic abuse and homelessness partners, we have responded to the Government’s consultation on future support for survivors of domestic abuse.

    We need a strong, specialist domestic abuse sector who can work with survivors facing homelessness. Only then can Government hope to achieve its aims to end rough sleeping and support all survivors of domestic abuse.

    But why would improving domestic abuse support help end homelessness?

    1. Domestic abuse puts survivors at risk of homelessness – and vice versa

    A third of female St Mungo’s clients say that domestic abuse contributed to their homelessness. Escaping domestic abuse can force survivors to make an impossible choice – live with abuse, or face homelessness.

    Trying to keep safe while homeless can also be risky. A study by the University of York for St Mungo’s found that women are often hidden homeless: staying with friends, family, or strangers who expect sex in return for shelter.

    Women who do sleep rough can form intimate relationships on the street in order to survive – but relying on a partner for protection can expose survivors to escalating abuse and control.

    2. Lack of funding and support is forcing survivors to sleep rough

    Funding for refuges and other life-saving domestic abuse services has suffered severe cuts. English local authorities cut spending on refuges by nearly a quarter between 2010 and 2017.

    In 2016-17, Women’s Aid found that 60% of referrals to refuges could not be accepted. One in 10 women supported by their No Woman Turned Away project were forced to sleep rough whilst waiting for a refuge space.

    3. Support for survivors facing multiple disadvantage is in short supply

    Survivors with mental health, drug or alcohol problems are less likely to be able to access specialist domestic abuse services, who are rarely resourced to support them safely.

    Women’s Aid research found that 31% of women with mental health problems and 65% of women with substance use problems were refused an available refuge space because of their needs.

    SafeLives found that survivors facing multiple disadvantage may be unable to work with local domestic abuse services if they do not have a phone or cannot attend regular appointments.

    Survivors with no access to public funds because of their immigration status are excluded from most domestic abuse accommodation because they are not eligible for housing benefit to cover the rent.

    4. Survivors without a safe home are left in danger

    Under the current legislation, survivors of domestic abuse approaching their local council for help are not automatically considered to be in priority need for housing. Instead, people are required to prove they are additionally vulnerable in order to be owed the ‘main homelessness duty’ – and access to settled accommodation.

    Evidence shows that survivors found not to be owed the duty are more likely to return to a dangerous situation. Some end up rough sleeping, sofa-surfing or living in unsuitable temporary accommodation where they are at further risk of abuse and are removed from services that could support them.

    Calling for change

    The Government has proposed a new duty on local authorities to assess local need and commission domestic abuse accommodation.

    It’s a good start, but Government must also confirm ring fenced funding to support those services. The proposed definition must be made clearer to make sure that specialist refuges are rebuilt and protected.

    Every survivor deserves support, and we think Government should also provide separate future funding for specialist domestic abuse outreach services to work with survivors facing homelessness.

    A new programme of investment in homelessness services is also badly needed. As part of this, we need women-only homelessness accommodation in every part of the country as a safe route away from the streets.

    And of course, automatic priority need should be extended to all survivors, so that anyone fleeing domestic abuse in England is guaranteed a safe home.

    New homelessness boards

    Administrative tinkering or an opportunity to end rough sleeping for good?

    Photo of Rory Weal, Senior Policy and Public Affairs Officer
    Rory Weal, Senior Policy and Public Affairs Officer

    Last week the Government finished its first stage of consultation on a shake up to local authority structures for tackling homelessness. Changes to statutory structures may not be something that gets the heart racing, but when it comes to delivering the changes and funding needed to end rough sleeping for good, they could have a key role to play, writes Rory Weal, Senior Policy and Public Affairs Officer for St Mungo’s.

    Rough sleeping – the most dangerous form of homelessness – has risen by 165% since 2010. This is the result of spiralling housing costs, increasing insecurity for private renters and cuts to services that prevent homelessness – all problems that require national Government to act.

    And yet, it is actually local authorities who are charged with the primary day-to-day responsibility for tackling homelessness. Since the Homelessness Reduction Act (HRA) came into force last year, this responsibility has expanded to include providing advice and support to anyone at risk of, or experiencing, homelessness.

    What are Homelessness Reduction Boards?

    The latest government proposal – to create Homelessness Reduction Boards in local authorities – builds on the positive momentum achieved by the HRA, and the Rough Sleeping Strategy, to get a grip on the growing homelessness crisis in England. The proposal is an attempt to ensure all relevant public services and agencies step up as members of these new boards, and they are held to account for their part in preventing and reducing homelessness and rough sleeping.

    So far so good. But as many of us know, central Government hasn’t made this job easy for local authorities of late.

    A challenging backdrop

    Recent research from St Mungo’s and Homeless Link, published last month, shows that local authority spending on services for single homeless people fell by 53% between 2008-09 to 2017-18. This drop is the result of cuts in funding from central government, particularly impacting ‘Supporting People’ services, which focus on helping people to avoid and escape homelessness. Add to this the wider issues of a lack of social rented housing, unaffordability and instability in the private rented sector, and welfare reforms, and we see a dangerous combination of factors which have increased individuals’ vulnerability to homelessness.

    So with such a challenging backdrop, how can an administrative change really be expected to deliver the impact required to end rough sleeping? The short answer is that on its own, it can’t.

    But there are a couple of reasons why this is a more than worthwhile exercise:

    • Firstly, because at the local level there is a huge variation in the way any strategic response to homelessness is developed, implemented and monitored. Sometimes this means that elements of the ‘system’, such as health services, are failing to play their part.
    • Secondly, because we believe these new structures could be the vehicles for central Government to deliver the resources councils need to tackle the problem.

    Investing the funding that’s needed

    We believe Homelessness Reduction Boards – or a similar set-up where good oversight and accountability is assured – should provide Government with the confidence to invest the extra £1 billion in homelessness services that we know is needed. Having mandatory structures closely scrutinising what services deliver, key partners such as the NHS, prisons and children’s services working to prevent homelessness, and collecting data to demonstrate and respond to this, should satisfy Government that each pound will be spent effectively.

    The jury is still out on the impact this could have. As always the devil will be in the detail. The principles of these new Boards, however, seem sound and provide an opportunity to secure the funding desperately needed for homelessness services.

    This shouldn’t avert our focus from the other vital changes required – including building more social homes and improving private renting. Only when these solutions come together will we see everyone have a home for good, and a country in which no one faces the injustice of sleeping rough.

    Read our full response to the consultation.

    Click here to call on your MP to help reverse the cuts to homelessness services and make sure everyone has a Home for Good.

    Creating change for women facing homelessness

    Photo fo Cat Glew, Women's Strategy Manager for St Mungo's
    Cat Glew, Women’s Strategy Manager

    St Mungo’s has published a new three year ‘Women’s Strategy’ setting out how we plan to improve our services for women and influence policy on women’s homelessness. Our Women’s Strategy Manager Cat Glew introduces our approach.

    Five years ago St Mungo’s published our ground-breaking Rebuilding Shattered Lives research into women’s homelessness. We found that homelessness services are often designed with men in mind, and were often failing to support women effectively.

    Sadly, it remains the case that women facing homelessness are still at a disproportionate risk of harm from those they love and trust, alongside the existing dangers of homelessness. Since 2014 a growing body of evidence has highlighted the connections between women’s experiences of violence and abuse, poor physical and mental health, substance use and homelessness.

    According to the latest figures, 642 women sleep rough on any one night in England, up from 509 in 2016. Many more women are likely to be experiencing hidden homelessness – seeking shelter with abusive partners, squatting or sofa surfing with friends and family – so may be missing from the statistics.

    Women’s homelessness often occurs after prolonged experiences of trauma, including physical, sexual and emotional abuse by those closest to them. Violence and abuse are both a cause and consequence of women’s homelessness, with women experiencing further abuse, exploitation and violence while homeless.

    Women-only spaces are a matter of safety for many women. Despite this, just 7% of homelessness services in England offer women-only provision, according to data from Homeless Link.

    Our greatest challenge and our most important aim is to create an environment of physical and psychological safety for women in homelessness services. We’ll be working hard to make sure that each of our female clients has a safe place to live and has every reason to feel safe in our services.

    We know that funding for women-specific work is falling, but we also understand that our female clients cannot wait for the Government to prioritise women’s homelessness.

    As a homelessness charity, it is our responsibility to make sure that we are achieving the best possible outcomes with women, as well as men. We have made the decision to make women’s safety and women’s recovery a priority. Our new Women’s Strategy sets out some ambitious aims that will help us improve our practice and influence government policy.

    Our ambitions for the next three years include:

    • Offering women-only services and spaces as an option for all female clients, at every stage of their recovery
    • Supporting and equipping St Mungo’s staff to better recognise and respond to violence and abuse
    • Improving rough sleeping services so that they are even safer and more effective for women
    • Working with specialist agencies to offer individual support to women around domestic and sexual abuse

    There’s plenty to do, but I’m really looking forward to working with all our clients, staff and partners to make our ideas a reality. Listening to the ideas and experiences of St Mungo’s women is an amazing privilege and the very best part of my job. I hope that partners, politicians and the public will read our strategy and join us as we create change with women facing homelessness.

    Read our brand new women’s strategy here

    A Home for Good: what it will take to end rough sleeping

    This week we launched a new report at a reception in Parliament as part of our Home for Good campaign. St Mungo’s Chief Executive Howard Sinclair outlined to MPs, peers, partners and clients attending what we believe it will take to end rough sleeping. This is his speech.

    Thank you to everyone for coming, especially to our speakers and our host Bob Blackman MP. And a special thanks to Kevin who has already done so much to support our Home for Good campaign. Your story and enthusiasm has truly inspired us to be ambitious about the changes we want to see.

    And our Home for Good campaign is ambitious. It’s a campaign for more social housing, a more secure and affordable private rented sector and a new programme of long-term, guaranteed funding for homelessness services.

    These are the changes needed to put an end to rough sleeping. An end to people sleeping outside, exposed not just to the elements, but to violence and abuse, falling quickly into a state of despair and desperation that comes from not having a safe place to call home.

    St Mungo’s services work to end rough sleeping for these very individuals every day by:

    • Getting a roof over people’s heads
    • Supporting them to address the issues that led to homelessness
    • Helping them to make a journey of recovery from the damage rough sleeping causes
    • And ultimately helping them to rebuild their lives.

    Kevin’s story, and the stories of many others, encourage us to be ambitious for individuals knowing that with the right help, rough sleeping is not inevitable.

    The tragic return of mass rough sleeping in recent years is something no one should take lightly. Today more people than ever are not only stuck on the streets, but are dying on the streets. Since our reception last year, at least 449 people are known to have died while sleeping rough or in emergency accommodation.

    The Government has been clear about its ambition of halving rough sleeping by 2022 and eliminating it altogether by 2027, and it is encouraging to see the efforts made since our last Parliamentary reception to start work on achieving that ambition. For the opposition parties, as well, rough sleeping and homelessness is high on their agenda.

    The publication of the Government’s Rough Sleeping Strategy, including the funding for the Rough Sleeping Initiative, are very welcome steps. We know the Rough Sleeping Initiative money is making a difference in this respect. But as Kevin’s story shows, the right accommodation and support also need to be in place to help people stay off the streets.

    The report we’re launching today highlights the long term value of floating support, which is not always visible like a hostel in the local community, but does a vital job of helping people hang onto their homes.

    Our report also presents new evidence that funding for services which prevent and reduce homelessness is slipping away at a much faster rate than the Government is topping it up. The report includes new research showing an 18% reduction in funding for floating support services over the past five years in the areas with the highest numbers of people sleeping rough, in London the funding has reduced by 41%.

    And it’s an ever greater challenge in many towns and cities to help people find the secure, safe and affordable housing they need in order to rebuild their lives away from the street for good.

    Ten years of steady dis-investment in services, in housing and in support has lead us to this position, we know how to sort it but we cannot do it overnight.

    The short term Rough Sleeping Initiative is welcome – but it is ‘short term’. Next year’s Spending Review presents a real opportunity to inject some certainty into the Government’s plan to end rough sleeping. It is an opportunity to tackle the structural factors driving more people onto the street.

    I am clear that the number of people sleeping rough tonight across the country is a national disaster. 4,751 people on any one night, 4,751 people without any roof over their head. And in a disaster situation we would expect an emergency relief response, as well as a coming together of public authorities and civil society to provide the long-term solution. We would also expect, that as a society, we would strive to ensure it never happened again.

    The Government has rightly focused on the emergency response, but we also need the focus on long-term housing and support, and on preventing people sleeping rough in the first place.

    That’s why our Home for Good campaign makes three asks; more social housing, including specialist housing specifically for people moving on from rough sleeping; a more secure and affordable private rented sector; and a new programme of long-term, guaranteed funding for homelessness services.

    That’s what it will take to end rough sleeping and that’s what we look forward to seeing as the next steps to achieve the Government’s ambition to end rough sleeping for good.

    Support our Home for Good campaign to end rough sleeping for good.



    Steve Douglas, CBE

    • Role: Chief Executive
    • Email:

    Why the budget 2018 is a missed opportunity for ending rough sleeping

    Following the announcement of the autumn 2018 budget, Rory Weal, Senior Policy and Public Affairs Officer, analyses what the Government’s plans mean for those sleeping rough or at risk of homelessness.

    Amongst talk of an ‘end of austerity’ budget, the Chancellor yesterday delivered one that was really a missed opportunity from the perspective of homelessness.

    It had been a positive summer, with the Government listening to the homelessness sector and deciding to keep funding for supported housing in the welfare system, as well as publishing a rough sleeping strategy which contained a variety of interventions to stop the scandalous rise in the number of people sleeping rough across the country.

    However, the Budget failed to build on these developments, and did not contain measures which will deliver on the Government’s commitment to halve rough sleeping by 2022, and end it all together by 2027.

    There were bits of positive news to be found which – if delivered with homelessness in mind – could contribute to helping people off the streets.

    A new mental health crisis service

    On mental health, there was the news that a new mental health crisis service will be developed, as part of the NHS Long Term Plan. Given the scale of the mental health crisis on the streets and the difficulty many have accessing support, this is particularly welcome.

    The service will include comprehensive mental health support in every major A&E, more mental health specialist ambulances, and more crisis cafes. We want to see this service work with people sleeping rough who have mental health problems, providing support on the street if necessary.

    More money for the NHS

    However, we know that prevention is always better than cure. We want to see fewer people getting to crisis point and helped much earlier before conditions worsen.

    People sleeping rough have much higher rates not only of mental illness, but of physical health problems too, and shockingly high levels of mortality. So the cash injection for the NHS – £20bn over the next five years – is desperately needed and clearly welcome. But we know that without a clear plan, these kinds of funding injections often don’t make their way through to helping the most vulnerable. That is why we want the upcoming NHS Long Term Plan to earmark some of these funds for specialist services for people sleeping rough, to ensure their needs are not forgotten.

    Funding to address problems in Universal Credit roll-out

    Universal Credit roll-out has had a particularly damaging impact on people sleeping rough, which is why the £1bn announced in the budget to address problems with roll-out is welcome. These problems include large deductions being taken from Universal Credit awards to repay Advance Payments and other debts such as rent arrears. We are also seeing increases in arrears for service charge in supported housing, as Universal Credit no longer allows claimants living in supported housing to request direct payments to their landlord for the likes of gas and electricity.

    The complexity of the new system means that many struggle to navigate it and make a claim without support. The cumulative effect of this is to make it even harder for people to move on from homelessness.

    We want this new funding used to address these serious problems. However, in order to stop vulnerable claimants being pushed further into destitution, we still want to see a pause in the roll-out to give time for the process to be fixed.

    But not enough to end rough sleeping…

    Despite these positive notes, the overall feeling is that this was a missed opportunity. With no funding measures on rough sleeping specifically, and no plans to tackle the key drivers of homelessness, there is still much more to do to get close to the Government ambition to ending rough sleeping by 2027.

    We need to see further commitments to increase social housing, strengthen private renting and funding for homelessness services for people to find, and keep, a home for good. We will be working to build support for these changes in the months ahead. With the numbers sleeping rough continuing to rise, we cannot afford to delay.

    Our Home for Good campaign is calling on the government to put an end to rough sleeping by ensuring that everyone gets the long-term housing and support they need to rebuild their lives. Sign Kevin’s open letter to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government.

    A turning point in the history of rough sleeping?

    As the Government publishes its new Rough Sleeping Strategy, Beatrice Orchard, St Mungo’s Head of Policy, Campaigns and Research, welcomes a good first step, but calls for more work to ensure no one has to sleep rough ever again

    At the last count 4,751 people were sleeping rough on any one night in England. Each one vulnerable to poor health, violence and premature death. No one should have to suffer the damaging long-term consequences of not having a roof over their head or the support they need.

    Rough sleeping is a problem caused by many individual, structural and societal factors. There are no quick solutions, but that doesn’t mean rough sleeping can’t be solved.

    Stopping the scandal

    Shocked, like others at the sharp rise in rough sleeping since 2010, St Mungo’s launched its Stop the Scandal campaign to demand a new cross-government strategy to end rough sleeping.

    The snap General Election in 2017 provided an opportunity to work with other homelessness charities to make rough sleeping a priority for politicians, and both the Conservative and Labour parties committed to end rough sleeping in their election manifestos.

    The Government’s target is to end rough sleeping by 2027 and this week it has published a rough sleeping strategy as a first step towards realising this vision of a country where no one has to sleep rough.

    A good first step

    The strategy is backed by £100 million to fund measures to prevent rough sleeping, help people off the street quickly and support them to settle into a home. It’s a really good first step.

    The Somewhere Safe to Stay pilots will provide more emergency accommodation where people in crisis can have their needs assessed quickly, in safety away from the street. It is vital these services are targeted at those at immediate risk of sleeping rough, as well as those already on the street. Getting this approach right should pave the way for desperately needed reforms, preventing people sleeping rough in the first place.

    The initial investment in health services for people who sleep rough, in support for non-UK nationals and in floating support services to help people hang on to their home is also welcome.

    The challenges ahead

    The big challenge for the Government, and where the strategy falls short, is providing enough stable, safe and affordable housing. According to the evaluation of the Rough Sleepers Initiative in the 1990s, 5,500 people were housed in 3,500 units of permanent accommodation in London alone over a nine year period. Delivering more homes for people with a history of rough sleeping should be an urgent priority for the Government and housing providers.

    The strategy pledges to learn from new evidence in order to scale up and roll out programmes. We will be holding the Government to this pledge. We must move on from pilots and short-term cash injections and towards a long-term plan and investment.

    When it comes to learning lessons, there is a particularly welcome commitment to ensure there are more reviews into the deaths of people who die while rough sleeping to help services improve. It is desperately sad that this commitment is even needed, but the rising number of rough sleeper deaths is another reminder of why this strategy has to mark the turning point in the history of rough sleeping in our country.

    We share the Government’s vision of a future where no one has to sleep rough. But this is only the first step. While the new rough sleeping strategy is important, to meet their target of ending rough sleeping by 2027, the government must set out a plan to stop people becoming homeless in the first place.

    That’s why we’re launching a new campaign in the autumn calling on the government to end rough sleeping for good. Be the first to hear all about it – sign up to campaign with us today.

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