Southwark Council could directly employ former rough sleepers in bid to tackle homelessness

Josh Salisbury (22 June, 2020)

The council says it needs "substantial Government investment and structural changes" to end homelessness after coronavirus

37424Image: Housing stock

Southwark Council is considering whether to directly employ former rough sleepers as part of its homelessness strategy after the coronavirus pandemic.

All 138 former rough sleepers in Southwark are being accommodated in temporary accommodation, as a result of the pandemic, according to a council report.

At the beginning of the outbreak, councils were instructed to house rough sleepers in self-contained emergency accommodation to help prevent the spread of Covid among vulnerable groups.

The anticipated cost of housing those sleeping on the streets during the outbreak will reach around £1.8m, officials believe.

The majority of those have ‘no recourse to public funds’ (NRPF) – and so are banned from claiming welfare benefits because of their immigration status.

Most non-EEA national migrants with temporary permission to remain in the UK have the condition on their visa, which prevents them from claiming most state-funded benefits, tax credits and housing assistance.

Others deemed under “immigration control” might also be barred from claiming certain assistance.

Of the 86 who have no recourse to public funds, 40 are from the European Economic Area. 

The council is “currently exploring the possibility of employing directly some of these former rough sleepers who have No Recourse to Public Funds and are EAA nationals and encouraging partners to employ these people in an attempt to build future employment opportunities.”

Officials hope this will then save money.

“If this proves to be successful it will help the person to regulate their stay in the country and for the person to be sufficient without the need for the council to pay for accommodation and food,” states the report by head of housing solutions, Ian Swift. 

“This work could also be repeated across Southwark Council and potentially with all partner agencies.”

The council’s offices on Tooley Street

The council warns it has seen a “dramatic” increase in homelessness presentations due to the coronavirus outbreak, with fears this could escalate post-pandemic.

There has been a whopping 517% increase in the average number of Universal Credit applications post-lockdown compared with the period in the week before lockdown.

As at June 17, 356 homeless households in Southwark were living in shared accommodation, although 288 homeless households had been moved away from needing any shared facilities during the outbreak.

The council hopes that by August, more lettings will be available, meaning that homeless families do not need to rely on shared accommodation. 

“These pressures will continue to build going forward as a result of the economic decline across England as a result of COVID19,” the report starkly states.

In order for this to be tackled, officials say they need “substantial Government investment and structural changes.”

Among the options officials will lobby central government on include increasing the Local Housing Allowance, suspending the No Recourse to Public Funds cap for a year, and more funding to build council homes.

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