COVID-19 reveals scale of rough sleeping ‘far exceeds’ previous estimates

By William Eichler | 14 January 2021

The scale of the rough sleeping population in England ‘far exceeds’ the Government’s previous estimates and has been made clear during the pandemic, auditors have found.

An investigation by the National Audit Office (NAO) said the Government estimated that in autumn 2019 there were 4,266 people sleeping rough.

However, the NAO found the Everyone In programme, which asked local authorities to immediately house rough sleepers and those at risk of rough sleeping, helped more than 33,000 people, avoiding more than 20,000 infections and 266 deaths.

Head of the NAO, Gareth Davies, said: ‘For the first time, the scale of the rough sleeping population in England has been made clear, and it far exceeds the Government’s previous estimates.

'Understanding the size of this population and who needs specialist support is essential to achieve its ambition to end rough sleeping.’

The Local Government Association (LGA) said that long-term funding was needed to fight homelessness.

Housing spokesperson for the LGA, Cllr David Renard, said: ‘If councils are to prevent homelessness from happening in the first place, short-term reactive pots of funding need to be replaced by long-term funding issued through multi-year settlements to give councils the certainty they need to plan local services.’

A Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government spokesperson said: ‘Our ongoing Everyone In programme has protected thousands of rough sleepers from COVID-19 so we are pleased the NAO recognises its achievement.'

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