St Mungo’s responds to ‘recovery’ Budget

The Chancellor Rishi Sunak today (3 March) announced a budget aimed at getting the economy back on track over the coming years following the devastating effect of the coronavirus.

Responding, leading homelessness charity St Mungo’s has urged that this long-term attitude is replicated when it comes to the Government’s financial approach to tackling homelessness.

The Chancellor described his budget – entitled “Protecting the jobs and livelihoods of the British people” – as ‘going long’, and acknowledged that it will take many years to get over the crisis.

The headline announcements were centred on the issues caused by Covid-19 and included:

Chief Executive of St Mungo’s Steve Douglas CBE said: “Understandably today’s announcements were focused on getting the UK economy back on track. However, we are acutely aware that people’s housing is directly impacted by their financial situation.

“And while we welcome the continuation of the uplift in Universal Credit, this extension – along with that to the eviction ban which was previously announced – are still just emergency measures. We need to develop longer term solutions.

“By September people in receipt of the £20 a week universal credit up lift will have been relying on it for 18 months, which is a recognition that it is needed to ensure that they can afford basic living costs, including rent. For many people losing this will be potentially catastrophic.

“We know that in order to effectively tackle homelessness longer term, multi-year  commitments are needed and we hope that these will be announced in the next Comprehensive Spending review,” said Mr Douglas.

He continued: “So much good work has been achieved during the pandemic via Everyone In and positive partnership working. And the Government has made significant investment to help people experiencing homelessness.

“We must continue to work together to make sure that these positives are not lost by the knock on effect of tightening the country’s purse strings. Short term measures could have long term human costs.”

There was also little in the Chancellor’s famous red briefcase related to social policy.

He did detail £19m to support domestic abuse programmes, which included £4m over the next two years to trial a network of ‘Respite Rooms’ across England to provide specialist support for homeless women facing severe disadvantage.

Homelessness services are often designed with men in mind, which is why St Mungo’s has made a commitment to work with our partners to increase access to women-only services and spaces. More detail on the new ‘Respite Rooms’ is awaited.

In the written budget paper, reference was made to the investment in homelessness and rough sleeping services for 2021-22 which had previously been announced.

There was also news that people under 25 experiencing homelessness, who have been living in a hostel for more than three months, are to be exempted from the Shared Accommodation Rate from June this year, which should enable more young people to move on to long-term housing. This move has been welcomed by the sector.