We find ourselves in another lockdown with a continuation of extremely challenging circumstances to both work in and to support others.
We are expecting further announcements on the extension of the evictions ban and potential further guidance on managing infection prevention and control measures with the new variant in homelessness services.
At this point, there is no expectation that a nationally funded programme akin to ‘Everyone In’ will be revived. However, the distance travelled since the first lockdown means that there are crucial differences that put us in a far stronger position:
- Critical services can remain open. The vital support provided in day centres and multi-agency hubs can remain open with continued infection prevention and control measures.
- We have well-established infection prevention and control (IPC) measures in homelessness services. This includes supported access to testing for our cohort. We are updating the GM wide Preparedness Plan to reflect the lockdown restrictions, new variant risks and recommendations from the Faculty for Inclusion Health, and update vaccination plans. The IPC measures will remain consistent unless there is further Public Health England guidance.
- There is a continued focus on protecting people who are rough sleeping. We continue to seek to provide ‘A Bed Every Night’ to anyone who is rough sleeping, and additional prioritisation where needed is based on assessment of vulnerability to Covid-19. There are over 1000 emergency and non-statutory beds in Greater Manchester through A Bed Every Night and the continuation of additional ‘Everyone In’ funded accommodation (this includes expanded ABEN provision for LGBTQ+ clients and at YHA).
- We are about to open an out of hospital Covid Care provision for people experiencing homelessness that will allow step up and step down care and add capacity to both community accommodation and hospital beds.
- The vaccination programme has begun. The prioritisation of vaccines (9 Priority Groups) is defined nationally and we cannot deviate from it. The majority of people experiencing homelessness are likely to be captured in Priority Group 6, with some beginning in higher or lower groups. Any additional vaccination doses during the roll out, unused or over-supplied will be used pragmatically to prioritise people based on local decision-making. Frontline workers will also be subject to the same process and proactive-decision making where possible.
We know that there is real difficulty in ensuring everyone has the option of accommodation and support that they need to keep safe from the virus – due to capacity in some areas, but also because people are unwilling or unable to enter certain kinds of accommodation. There is significant outreach through the ongoing work of the Street Engagement Hub, outreach teams and humanitarian response spaces.
Local Authorities received some welcome news regarding funding this week. Rough Sleeper Initiative grant, which makes up the majority of outreach, tailored support and some emergency accommodation provision, will be extended into 2021⁄22 with at least the same amount of funding. The core grant for homelessness services, Homelessness Prevention Grant, has also been confirmed and uplifted for all areas in 2021⁄22.
I do not mind sharing that I can feel overwhelmed almost daily, sometimes we just need to push on, other times we need to rest. Please be kind to yourself.
Strategic Lead for Homelessness
Public Service Reform Team
Greater Manchester Combined Authority