Earlier this week the UK Health Security Authority issued guidance and launched a new system which will allow services supporting vulnerable people to continue to be able to access free Covid-19 tests.
- night shelters
- homelessness hostels, hotels, and other temporary accommodation
- other homelessness outreach services including day centres
In mid-March, St Mungo’s wrote to the then Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Michael Gove MP, and the then Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Sajid Javid MP.
The letter was co-signed by 10 other homelessness organisations and included a detailed Public Health evidence submission drafted by Dr Al Story and Professor Andrew Hayward from University College London.
At the end of March the Government confirmed that it would continue to provide free testing to a number of services supporting people experiencing homelessness which was welcomed by St Mungo’s.
On Wednesday (26 July 2022) St Mungo’s received a joint letter from the Minister for Rough Sleeping and Housing Eddie Hughes MP and the Minister for Care and Mental Health Gillian Keegan MP highlighting the publication of the new guidance and mechanism for obtaining the tests.
In their letter the Ministers acknowledged the risk and vulnerabilities of people who are homeless saying: “We recognise the increased risk that people experiencing homelessness face from Covid-19, for all the reasons you have so clearly set out in your letter and related position statement, particularly in light of the health inequalities faced by this group.
“It is for this reason that our departments have been working closely with the UK Health Security Agency, to make sure there remains proportionate measures to keep people experiencing homelessness safe from the risks posed by Covid-19, and we shall continue to do so.”
Responding to the news St Mungo’s Service Director James Lally, who chairs the charity’s Covid-19 Policy Group, said: “This guidance and system is very welcome. This issue is vitally important for our clients who are some of the most clinically vulnerable members of society, with the lowest levels of vaccine take-up. It is absolutely the right thing that they, via services like the ones we provide, continue to be able to access Covid-19 tests without having to pay for them.
“We want to thank our colleagues in the homelessness sector, and Dr Story and Professor Hayward in particular for their tireless hard work and skill advocating for the most vulnerable amongst us.
“We are pleased that the expertise of the homelessness sector combined with the expert evidence submission has been given due consideration and has been acted upon.
“Working together we have ensured that people experiencing homelessness will continue to have the access to this essential resource as we move into the autumn and winter. “