Government policy 'failing homeless' in Liverpool

4 October 2017, 07:56

rough sleeper

A major independent report into rough sleeping in Liverpool is calling for a change in legislation that prevents people from claiming support.

The policy of “No Recourse to Public Funds” has been pinpointed as a major contributory factor in the growth of rough sleeping in the past decade.

As well as calling on the Government to urgently review how those with no address can claim benefits, the “Roots out of Rough Sleeping” report also identifies failings within the health service to meet the complex needs of rough sleepers – with 71% having some form of mental health issue.

The authors of the report, believed to be the most in-depth undertaken in the UK and commissioned by the Mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson, also state that the time has come for a major public awareness campaign to debunk myths around homelessness, and for the establishment of a new charity to ensure funds are directly benefiting those affected.

Co-authored by John Finnegan, Chief Executive of the Liverpool Homeless Football League and Simon Whitter, who was once a rough sleeper, the report has identified 10 key action points to help tackle the underlying causes of rough sleeping (see Notes to Editors) and called for an academic based study into the issue.

The pair, whose taskforce interviewed more than 130 people and organisations over the course of a three month period, have concluded that the public, private and voluntary sectors need to form a coordinated response in a bid to prioritise care and negate practices that are maintaining the “street lifestyle”, which is predominantly underpinned by substance misuse.

Another key recommendation is for the implementation of a more integrated approach between social housing providers, local authorities, health and community organisations and specifically to establish a series of pilots such as a new social housing model for young, single people.

• The report’s full findings will be announced at 9.30am on Wednesday, 4 October at The Rotunda Community Centre in Kirkdale, North Liverpool.

Mayor Anderson called for an independent report earlier in the year to examine how services can be improved despite the fact that Liverpool City Council spends £11m per year on support to prevent and address Homelessness and Rough Sleeping, including funding 711 beds a night and creating a new Severe Weather Shelter in the city centre.

Rough Sleeping in Liverpool is at the lower end of the English Core Cities average but the number has been growing and national homeless charity Crisis recently claimed Britain could witness a 76% increase over the next decade.

Mayor Anderson, who will use the launch of the report to call for a city wide action plan, said: “I’d like to thank John and Simon for leading this task force with great diligence and care. I know both have personally committed their lives to improving the lot of those who have been unfortunate to find themselves living on the street which is why these findings cannot and should not be ignored.

“This report is the most comprehensive analysis undertaken of rough sleeping in any UK city and shows that rough sleeping is on the rise across the country. The reason for that lies firmly at the door of the Government’s attitude to benefits and specifically the No Recourse for Public Funds.

“Rough Sleeping will never go away unless this pernicious policy is reversed. This need cross-party support and is a cause I will be taking up with other city Mayors to ensure the Government understands a radical rethink is vital to solving this issue. It is not simply the case that more money will reduce this problem – this is going to require a new approach in how government at central and local level engage and act with our strategic partners and at grassroots level to address the very complex health needs of these unfortunate individuals.”

Simon Whitter, who last year cooked 1,000 Christmas meal for homeless people on Merseyside, said: “Homelessness and rough sleeping in particular has been very personal to me over many years and throughout this report we have interviewed rough sleepers to CEO's and have tried to maintain a balanced view from all involved. Hopefully the recommendations in this report will help to make further steps forward in getting people the support and help needed – not just in Liverpool but across the UK.”