Emma Haddad is a member of the Kerslake Commission and chief executive of some Mungo’s homeless charity and joins us. Good afternoon. The commission, which we should explain it was named Kerslake and for Sir Bob Kerslake who who died a few months ago. It has been looking at this idea of what we could have learned from the pandemic. What were the findings of.
Given the situation now where actually rough sleeping is going up?
Yeah. The Kerslake commission was set up in response to the pandemic response, which was called everyone in and to try and capture the lessons and learn what worked brilliantly and what worked brilliantly was this shared purpose, this absolute shared mission of getting everyone off the streets and into safety, into somewhere safe and secure and away from there. The health emergency.
And when when you’ve got people in inside in some way safe and warm, you can start to build trust in a relationship. You can see what’s driven them onto the streets in the first place. You can get individualized support to people and importantly, health support for people. And there was the shared purpose. There was a shared sense that this was universal.
This was for everybody, no matter who. And there was dedicated funding. And sadly, that dedicated funding no longer exists. And we’ve seen the shared purpose start to dissipate really because of this cost of living crisis that is driving more and more people to lose their housing and face homelessness. And this is really driven not just by spiraling costs, but by an absolutely huge lack of housing and in particular lack of affordable housing with the right support for people wrapped around it.
Okay. Now, there was this admirable ambition to end rough sleeping. They do a snapshot every year in autumn. Last year, it showed the numbers going up. We are presumably about to have the next one. Is it going to be worse as a result of the financial challenges people have had the last?
Yeah, I think most of us across the sector fear exactly that. We saw a 26% increase in the last annual count of people sleeping rough on the on the previous year. That was an absolutely dramatic increase in the space of one year. And what we’re seeing in our services that we’ve seen in some Mungo’s, but colleagues across the sector are seeing where we support people in hostels and other temporary accommodation services is more and more demand, seeing more and more people present with even greater complexities of need and a lack of statutory services that they need to support them.
And then we’re seeing people getting stuck in temporary accommodation. So even when we can get them off the streets and into some kind of safety and help them recover, it’s been really hard for people to move on because there is this lack of accommodation, lack of appropriate accommodation and lack of affordable accommodation. I mean, all.
The challenges that you present, I mean, the sound almost insurmountable. You’re talking about, you know, at a time when prices have been rising, the pressures on people. There’s a loss of funding. There’s a lack of housing. These are I mean, these are such huge problems. It doesn’t sound like even with if you could have shared purpose, a sense of shared purpose, that we’re anywhere near returning to that.
Well, there is one thing that the government could do that would make a massive difference very, very quickly, and that is to raise housing benefit housing benefit rates have been frozen since 2019 at a time when rents, particularly in the private rented sector, have continued to rise year on, year on year. And that means that the gap between what people can afford, particularly those on the lowest incomes and housing benefit, has widened between what’s actually asked for when you try and go and secure somewhere to live.
Now, if we if the government were to restore local local housing allowance so that so that people can afford the lowest rents, that would stop people falling into homelessness. It would help people get out of homelessness because they would be able to afford more properties. At the moment, those people on that lowest income bracket, there’s only about 5% on average houses in their private rented sector that are affordable, even less than 5% in some areas of the country.
Emma Haddad, thanks very much.