COVID-19 safeguarding: letter from Minister to local authorities

27.03.2020

The Government wrote to local authorities yesterday, 26 March 2020, requesting they urgently accommodate rough sleepers, and those in hostels and nightshelters.

Homeless person holding cardboard sign

The headline statement is that:

it is now imperative that rough sleepers and other vulnerable homeless are supported into appropriate accommodation by the end of the week.

This is line with the Government's strategy to:

...bring in those on the streets to protect their health and stop wider transmission, particularly in hot spot areas, and those in assessment centres and shelter that are unable to comply with social distancing advice.

Actions

The letter stresses the importance of a coordinated response by local authorities, NHS and the voluntary sector.

Actions include:

  • Convening a local coordination cell to plan and manage the response to COVID and rough sleeping.
  • Seeking to stop homeless people congregating in facilities, e.g. day centres and street encampments.
  • Urgent procurement of accommodation, which the Ministry will support.
  • Triaging people into three defined groups.
  • Getting basics, including food and clinical care to persons needing it in self-contained accommodation.
  • Separating, if possible, who have drug and alcohol needs from those who don't.

The stated principles are:

  • To focus on those who are sleeping rough, at risk of sleeping rough, and those in accommodation where it is difficult to self isolate.
  • Making sure people can access facilities that enable them to adhere to public health guidance, ideally single room facilities.
  • Utilising alternative powers and funding to assist those with no recourse to public funds who need shelter.
  • Mitigating persons' risk of infection and transmission to others.

In respect to triaging, there is additional guidance. Further guidance will be issued shortly on managing risk in relation to accommodating specific client groups.

Funding

The Minister acknowledges the need for funding, refers to the £1.6bn announced last week for councils, and indicates funding will be kept under review.

Wales

As far as I can make out the position of the Welsh Government is summarised here.

A crisis does tend to bring the madness of ordinary practice into sharper focus. Like routinely having thousands of people on the streets and in nightshelters. Ideas of what is possible also change.

Let's hope there's a reappraisal at some future point of national housing and welfare policy.

Comments

    Sign up for updates

    Receive the latest updates in your inbox. If you're already registered, enter your email to modify the updates you receive.