Additional protections for rough sleepers and renters 

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick has announced extra support to help protect rough sleepers and renters from the effects of coronavirus.

Backed by an additional £10 million in funding, all councils in England are being asked to redouble their efforts to help accommodate all those currently sleeping rough and ensure they are swiftly registered with a GP, where they are not already. It is hoped that this will ensure they can be protected from the virus and contacted to receive vaccinations in line with the priority groups outlined by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.

Additionally, councils will be asked to reach out again to those who have previously refused help, given rising infection rates and the colder winter months.

Jenrick has also reiterated that renters will continue to be supported during the new national restrictions, with an extension to the ban on bailiff evictions for all but the most egregious cases for at least six weeks - until 21 February at the earliest. After this, measures will be kept under review. Landlords continue to be required to give six-month notice periods to tenants until at least 31 March except in the most serious circumstances.

Jenrick said: “At the start of this pandemic we made sure that the most vulnerable in society were protected. This winter, we are continuing in this vein and redoubling our efforts to help those most in need. Our ongoing Everyone In initiative is widely regarded as one of the most successful of its kind in the world, ensuring 33,000 people are safe in accommodation. We are now going further and focusing on GP registration of rough sleepers. We are also extending the ban on bailiff evictions – helping to protect the most vulnerable renters.”

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, said: “These renewed efforts to protect people who are homeless in the pandemic will save lives. It was truly a landmark moment when, back in March, everyone on the streets was offered somewhere safe to stay. It’s as important, if not more so, that today we see government leadership to protect all those sleeping rough. The highly infectious new strain of coronavirus alongside the cold weather makes this the most dangerous moment of the pandemic for those without a home.

“What is very welcome here is the two-pronged approach – a continued commitment to getting everyone into safe accommodation but also now making sure people are registered with a GP so they can quickly access the vaccines. We know through our services that people facing homelessness often are not registered with a doctor’s surgery. Addressing this issue will be a lifesaving intervention and a step towards ensuring people who are homeless are protected in the longer-term.”