'Protect Programme' launched to help rough sleepers

A new scheme to help protect some of the most vulnerable people in our communities from coronavirus has been announced by the Communities Secretary.

Robert Jenrick has said that a further £15 million has been allocated to support the ongoing efforts to provide accommodation for rough sleepers during the pandemic, under a scheme called the ‘Protect Programme’. The initiative seeks to help areas that need additional support most during the restrictions and throughout winter.

The government says that the ‘Protect Programme’ will run alongside the ongoing ‘Everyone In’ campaign, which is helping to protect thousands of lives during the pandemic. The £15 million funding is in addition to the £91.5 million allocated to 274 councils in September to fund their individual plans for rough sleepers over the coming months, as well as the £10 million Cold Weather Fund for all councils to help keep rough sleepers safe this winter.

Support will continue throughout the winter until March 2021.

Jenrick said: “The way we have protected rough sleepers from Covid-19 is widely considered to be the best in the world. At the start of the pandemic we launched Everyone In, which protected thousands of vulnerable people. That work hasn’t stopped and we’ve backed it with £700 million.

“As the new national measures come into force, I am launching the Protect Programme to ensure councils are offering everyone sleeping rough on our streets today somewhere safe to go – protecting people from the virus and moving forward with our goal of eliminating rough sleeping.”

All councils will have to update their rough sleeping plans by the end of the year, providing an overview of their support for those sleeping rough. The top 10 areas to receive funding are: London; City of Bristol; Brighton and Hove; Cornwall; Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole; Manchester; Salford; Oxford; Leicester; and Birmingham.

James Jamieson, chairman of the Local Government Association, said: “As we enter this second national lockdown, councils will continue to do everything they can to accommodate new rough sleepers during the winter as well as support those already off the streets into safe, long-term accommodation with the appropriate support. Councils are stepping up to this huge ongoing challenge and this funding is good news. It will boost local efforts to try and find safe, self-contained accommodation available to all those who need it over the winter.

“It is good a further extension has been announced to measures to protect tenants from eviction, which should, for now, reassure worried tenants and allay the serious concerns councils have had over the potential risk of homelessness some private renters may have faced during this second lockdown and over the Christmas period. We would also urge the government to temporarily remove the No Recourse to Public Funds condition, which would reduce public health risks and pressures on homelessness services by enabling vulnerable people to access welfare benefits, who are currently unable to do so because of their immigration status.”