Update from Molly Bishop, Strategic Lead for Homelessness, GM Combined Authority

There is a huge amount happening at Combined Authority level at the moment, with all 10 boroughs and lobbying of National Government. Most detail is still to be confirmed, but below is what we are working on and where it is heading.

Prevention

We are working on prevention work with the prison and probation services and have established a formal ongoing link into HMPPS with representation from all sectors.

We are re-focusing the funding for Youth Homelessness Prevention, to be able to bring services online quickly.

Locally, we are embedding homelessness prevention into the Community Hubs that have been set up through Covid, as a key piece of community infrastructure.

Relief work

Collective relief work for people sleeping rough or at imminent risk continues in the form of:

  • Housing First - expanded to allow more people to receive support and re-housing this year. The service will be able to take new referrals from August 2020.
  • A Bed Every Night will be a fully single room service from July 1st 2020, with a total of 524 beds, 234 being new capacity, including NRPF provision and specialist support.
  • Many councils have worked to re-profile their Rough Sleeper Initiative funding to allow for more accommodation, outreach and in-reach services to be provided in recognition of the risk to life from Covid.
  • Services continue to adapt their front facing services due to social distancing restrictions. These are set to continue to change and adapt as the guidance moves on. Please stay in close contact with your local council to stay up to date on these changes.
  • The GM Health and Social Care Partnership has led new commissioning for a Call and Check peer-led service provided by Groundswell. They are also working with mental health and substance misuse commissioners and providers to fill gaps in local provision, building a more integrated system.

Supply

Rightly, there is a huge focus on scaling up accommodation supply, both temporary and settled. This addresses the immediate pressures of continuing to accommodate people who came in through Covid, those who remain on the streets, and the households in temporary accommodation who need homes to move on to.

  • A number of Covid response hotels are being stepped down, but only with move on options for everyone into settled or temporary accommodation. Some hotels will remain open to give more time for this process and ensure no one is forced to return to the streets.
  • A new agreement has been reached with Greater Manchester Housing Providers that will see an increase in allocations to homeless households, commitment to provision of Housing First tenancies, and prioritisation of the work of the Ethical Lettings Agency.
  • The Ethical Lettings Agency is now a key piece of infrastructure to scale up access into the private rented sector, we are close to completion on a deal with social housing investors to see large scale purchase, refurb and leasing into the ELA that will benefit hundreds of homeless households.
  • We are awaiting details on the Rough Sleeper Accommodation Fund from national Government (‘6,000 homes in 2 years’), and preparing delivery models and additional investment through the Housing Investment Fund and other social investor partners to maximise this. Currently drawing up models of property acquisition, refurb and lease, new supported accommodation, and new build transfer opportunities.

We have worked in close contact with Government throughout this crisis and will continue to. Our key messages remain, but we are especially focused on these policy areas:

  • Delay of asylum ‘move on’; yesterday it was confirmed that this would not be delayed any longer.
  • Viable funding to continue the Everyone In approach; announcement of additional £85m to March 2021 will be helpful for this and we’re awaiting details about allocation.
  • NRPF eligibility; seeking changes to ‘power to accommodate’, supported by the necessary funding and welfare allowances.
  • Furlough scheme changes, a key factor for those at risk of homelessness.

We continue to work in uncertain times, but we do have a clear handle on the scale and type of accommodation needed to ensure everyone can be safely accommodated in the immediate future. We will continue to work with all partners to achieve this and thank you for being part of it.

Molly Bishop

Strategic Lead for Homelessness, GMCA