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Housing Charities Welcome COVID-19 Inquiry Terms of Reference

Leading charities join to welcome the inclusion of housing and homelessness in terms of reference published by the Government

A coalition of charities have welcomed the inclusion of housing and homelessness in the consultation into the terms of reference for the UK COVID-19 Inquiry. The Government and Inquiry Chair, Baroness Hallett, have opened the consultation for organizations and individuals to share their views on the shape of the inquiry. Submissions are invited before 7 April 2022.

The Inquiry will look at the UK’s preparedness and response to the pandemic and will provide lessons for future public health emergencies.

The inclusion of housing and homelessness in the terms of reference follows a letter sent by the charities to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, in December 2021, to shine a spotlight on the devastating impact of the pandemic on those, in England, rough sleeping or living in inadequate housing.

Shelter, Refuge, Crisis, Porchlight, Chartered Institute of Housing, National Housing Federation and Women’s Aid are working together to urge the Government to include within the Inquiry’s terms of reference three hugely important areas for society, namely homelessness, housing, and domestic abuse.

In a joint statement, Porchlight and Refuge said:

“We know that lessons can only be learnt from a comprehensive investigation into the impact of COVID-19 on some of the most vulnerable in our society.

“The Inquiry should investigate how people living in overcrowded rented accommodation were affected by the pandemic and the other difficulties they experienced including staying safe in homes where growing rent arrears were built up, as a result of the pandemic. The effects of forced isolation on those living with abusers should also be closely considered. Particularly, the harsh decisions many faced when considering their own personal safety, during lockdowns.

“As an example of positive lessons learned, The Government’s Everyone In scheme saved lives and, we believe, could save many more and benefit others, if outcomes are independently considered.

“Our organisations and those we support have so much to share with the Inquiry and we believe this will not only benefit future handling of any future pandemics we may face, but will also provide vital feedback on lessons learned and ensure some of our most vulnerable people are fully protected in the future.

“We are already seeing the pandemic being cited by councils as the reason for decommissioning homelessness services in Kent, which will impact on the provision of supported accommodation leading to greater inequalities and difficulties, not less. Urgent assessment is needed by Government, and we hope a response from the Prime Minister will be forthcoming, with assurances that the full effects and experiences of the pandemic on homeless people and other vulnerable groups will be fully investigated.”

Refuge, providers of specialist services to survivors of domestic abuse, and Porchlight, Kent’s largest charity for homeless and vulnerable people, are represented by Daniel Fitzpatrick, Partner at Hodge Jones & Allen.

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