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Thu, 3 December 2020

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Boris Johnson pledges £236m to tackle rough sleeping amid row over true scale of problem

Boris Johnson pledges £236m to tackle rough sleeping amid row over true scale of problem
3 min read

Boris Johnson has promised an extra £236m to tackle the “simply unacceptable” levels of rough sleeping in the UK.


The Prime Minister said the funding would help “thousands more people get off the streets”, as he also announced that Dame Louise Casey will lead a review into tackling the problem.

But Labour said the Conservatives had presided over “10 years of failure” on rough sleeping amid a row over the Government’s official estimates. 

Ministers said the new money, which comes on top of £437m already committed to tackling homelessness and rough sleeping this year, would be used to help provide “long-term” accommodation and support for 6,000 people to help give them “stability and certainty”.

Speaking ahead of a visit to a homelessness charity, Mr Johnson said: “It is simply unacceptable that we still have so many people sleeping on the streets, and I am absolutely determined to end rough sleeping once and for all.

“Today I’ve announced extra funding to help thousands more people get off the streets, and I have appointed Dame Louise Casey as an adviser to undertake an urgent review into the causes of rough sleeping and provide expert advice on vital next steps.

“We must tackle the scourge of rough sleeping urgently, and I will not stop until the thousands of people in this situation are helped off the streets and their lives have been rebuilt.”

Dame Louise, a long-serving Whitehall official and former deputy director of homelessness charity Shelter, will report to the Prime Minister and Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick.

Downing Street said her review would look at “the links between 24-hour street activity and rough sleeping and how best we can support this group”.

“It will also look into those struggling with drug and alcohol misuse, and those with physical and mental health issues,” it added.

The funding comes ahead of the release of the latest official figures, which show that 4,677 people slept rough in England in 2018.

That represented a 2% dip on the previous year’s numbers - but a 165% rise since 2010. 

The Government has also been forced to defend its rough sleeping count after BBC analysis of local authority figures suggested the problem was five times greater than recorded - with more than 28,000 people in the UK recorded by councils as sleeping rough. 

The Communities Department has stood by its figures, which capture rough sleeping recorded on a single night and are independently verified by the Homeless Link charity. 

But Shadow Home Secretary John Healey said: "The Conservatives are in denial about the scale of street homelessness, with new figures showing that the Government's own statistics are seriously misleading the public about the number of people sleeping rough.
 
"After 10 years of failure, the Conservatives should adopt Labour's plan to end rough sleeping for good."

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