The Kerslake Commission on Homelessness and Rough Sleeping was launched in March 2020 and has met four times. In March the Commission discussed consensus about what worked well in the ongoing pandemic response for rough sleepers and what some of the more complex issues might be going ahead. In May the Board discussed the early findings from the evidence gathering stage, which invited organisations to submit their views on what did and didn’t work, the challenges, and what needs to be embedded for the future. In July the Board discussed the recommendations to come out of the evidence gathering to inform the Commission’s interim report. In September the Board discussed the Commission’s final report and recommendations as well as plans for the future to ensure that this work is taken forward.
The Commission’s final report A new way of working: ending rough sleeping together, has now been published and can be read here. It sends a clear message that without urgent action the benefits and lessons learned from the joint working during the pandemic will be wasted, and the number of people having to sleep on the streets will rise again.
The stark assessment comes as the pandemic support measures – including the £20-a-week uplift in Universal Credit and the furlough scheme – are due to end. This, coupled with rises in energy prices, inflation and National Insurance, is likely to put more and more people at risk of homelessness.
The Commission’s final report makes 12 key recommendations which it says must be actioned if the positives achieved during the pandemic are not to be lost.
These include: the Government developing a longer term rough sleeping strategy built on the success of their Everyone In policy; the maintenance of the £20 Universal Credit uplift; increased joint working by all organisations involved in homelessness by extending the Homelessness Reduction Act’s Duty to Refer, to make it a Duty to Collaborate; introducing a Quality Assurance framework for those providing homelessness accommodation; establishing a clear policy position that limiting access to benefits for non UK nationals should stop short of causing destitution; reducing the reliance on communal shelters through improving planning in relation to extreme cold or severe heat.
The Commission’s interim report When we work together: learning the lessons, was published in July, can be read here.
A key part of the Kerslake Commission’s work is examining the relationship between health and homelessness. In this video, Lord Victor Adebowale, Chair of the NHS Confederation, discusses the link between them, the effects of the pandemic and structural changes to the NHS on healthcare for those experiencing homelessness, and thoughts for the future.