On Saturday, 31st October 2020, the Prime Minister publicly announced a second national lockdown commencing on Thursday 5 November 2020. The Prime Minister continued to hone in on his advice by urging the nation to stay at home however, this is clearly impossible for rough sleepers as they do not have a home to stay at.
During the first lockdown in March, the Government had implemented the ‘Everyone In’ policy whereby £3.2 billion was allocated to local authorities and charities. This saw approximately 15,000 rough sleepers being provided with emergency accommodation in hotels, hostels and B&Bs to minimise the risk of contracting and spreading the virus. Additionally, a study by The Lancet Respiratory Medicine revealed that roughly 266 deaths have been avoided due to the Government taking a stand and aiding rough sleepers.
We are now in the midst of the second lockdown, which is anticipated to last until at least 2 December 2020. During his speech, the Prime Minister failed to address the question of whether additional support for rough sleepers will be provided. Accordingly, pleas from several bodies have since been made to the Government to address this concern.
Charities such as Shelter and Crisis as well as Councillors have strongly urged the Government to take heed and re-introduce the policy to avoid a catastrophe with further lives being lost. Tom Copely, London’s Deputy Mayor for Housing highlighted that “Everyone In, pioneered in London, was world leading, and resulted in very low Covid infection rates amongst homeless people here. Now we need Everyone In 2.” He also called on Ministers to clarify what additional funding will be provided to assist rough sleepers with COVID-safe accommodation.
Further to this, doctors have signed a warning letter that rough sleepers in the UK will die without a repeat of the ‘Everyone In’ policy. Rough sleepers are currently left with a dilemma of either residing in the streets or in overcrowded shelters where social distancing is almost impossible, neither of which are suitable for those susceptible to the virus, or indeed anyone.
In response to several calls for the re-introduction of the policy, the Minister for Rough Sleeping and Housing, Kelly Tolhurst informed MPs in Parliament on 11 November 2020 that the ‘Everyone In’ policy will not be repeated during the second lockdown. This is a terrible blow amidst the winter season, whereby weather conditions have worsened as well as a rapid spike in the transmission of the virus. It is beyond shocking that rough sleepers are not provided with protection echoing that implemented in March/April despite the now higher and obvious risks.
Notwithstanding the stringent efforts from numerous bodies, their plea for the Government to back the policy this time around during the winter period has fallen on deaf ears. It is clear that rough sleepers are more likely to contract the virus and should the Government fail to act accordingly, they will be at a significant disadvantage.
Recently, we have also seen the Government make two U-turns within five months, which saw England and Manchester United’s star, Marcus Rashford, lead the battle to extend free school meals for low-income families and now housing advisers strongly hope that the Government will rethink of their stance on the ‘Everyone In’ policy during the second lockdown and make another U-turn accordingly.
In the meantime, those currently facing homelessness should note that despite the Government’s failure in this regard, there are still a whole raft of legal obligations on Local Authorities to provide support to homeless individuals in certain circumstances.