The Government today releases its rough sleeping strategy, the first since announcing its commitment to halve the number of people sleeping on the streets by 2022 and to end the problem by 2027.
Groundswell welcomes the Government’s commitment to end rough sleeping and hopes to work closely with the advisory panel and rough sleeping taskforce on this going forward. Whilst we welcome the commitment to work with people with lived experience on strategy updates (Commitment 43), it is clear that their voice and crucial insight has thus far been absent from discussions. We offer our support both nationally and on a local level to help with the roll out of this commitment.
We find it particularly encouraging that the intervention pillar of the strategy brings in NHS England. We have argued consistently in recent years for joined up working between the homelessness and health sectors as a key step towards combatting the growing numbers of people sleeping rough. As our own research and work on the ground has shown, physical and mental health deteriorates rapidly as a consequence of rough sleeping and health problems can be a major barrier to escaping homelessness.
The strategy makes a candid admission that at the time of its development there was not enough information on the gaps in health provisions available to rough sleepers and that a rapid audit of provision is needed. We would be willing to support the task force in delivering this audit and request a place for our Peer Advocates at the round table being run in August 2018 (Commitment 143) to discuss what further action is needed to improve access to primary care for people sleeping rough.
We welcome the commitment that Health and Wellbeing Boards (HWB) will be supported to recognise and respond to the health needs of people who sleep rough (Commitment 74) and would be eager to share our learning in this process. However, in asking HWBs to undertake their statutory duties we hope that additional funding will be made available to NHS and other support services. We are aware that asking NHS England to spend up to £30m on health services for people who sleep rough, over the next five years, (Commitment 146) may be difficult given the current deficits faced by many Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG’s).
We hope that both the Advisory Panel and the Taskforce will harness the wealth of knowledge and expertise in the health and homelessness sectors, particularly the insights of those with experience of homelessness, to develop long lasting solutions which finally bring an end to rough sleeping in this country.