Mayor urges Prime Minister: ‘Do the right thing’ for rough sleepers

18 June 2019

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, council leaders and homeless charities have today criticised the Government’s ‘completely unacceptable’ record on rough sleeping, and urged the outgoing Prime Minister to ‘do the right thing and make the changes we need’ to help those living on the streets.

A joint letter to Theresa May co-signed by members of the Mayor’s No Nights Sleeping Rough Taskforce outlines how Government policies are fuelling the rough sleeping crisis, and makes three specific asks to help the huge numbers non-UK nationals off the streets. The letter comes ahead of publication later this week of the annual CHAIN (Combined Homelessness and Information Network) statistics on rough sleeping.

The letter reads:

“Our experience on the ground leaves us with little doubt that [the CHAIN statistics] will show that the already unprecedented recorded levels of rough sleeping in the capital will have continued to rise at an alarming rate.

“We are doing everything in our power to help people off the streets. Charities in London are working harder than ever to help people who find themselves homeless. The Mayor of London is working with councils across the capital to offer as much support as possible; City Hall has doubled both its rough sleeping budget and the size of its outreach team – its services are now helping a record number of rough sleepers.

“But the truth is that record numbers of people continue to be forced onto the streets in the first place. Government policies are fuelling this problem - throughout the country, it will not be possible to truly end homelessness without welfare cuts being reversed, sustained investment in health and support services across the board, and a step change of investment in new social housing.

“What’s more, in London we face an additional challenge helping people off the streets, as over half of those sleeping rough in the capital are non-UK nationals. The options for these people are severely limited and if the Government is to keep and meet its aim of truly ending rough sleeping it cannot shy away from its responsibilities in this area.

“As you approach the end of your time as Prime Minister, we therefore call on you to provide urgent help for non-UK nationals who are sleeping on the streets by:

• reversing changes made in 2014 that restricted benefit entitlements for EEA nationals; and

• prioritising the resolution of complex immigration cases, alongside fully funding adequate legal advice and support;

• Increasing funding for specialist employment services to enable non-UK nationals who can work to find secure paid employment.

The letter concludes:

“We regret that the Government’s help for non-UK nationals has so far been inadequate, and that the support which is available has been far too slow in coming forward. The steps above would begin to offer help to the large numbers of non-UK nationals on the streets of London, who currently have no option but to live on our streets, by enabling many of them to access accommodation and to resolve longstanding immigration issues.

“The Government’s current position effectively forces many support services in London to look the other way and simply walk by when they see rough sleepers who are non-UK nationals. This is completely unacceptable; it does not reflect the compassionate city we live in. Before you leave office, we urge you to do the right thing and make the changes we need.”

Notes to editors

1. The signatories of the letter were:
• Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London
• Councillor Georgia Gould, Leader, London Borough of Camden
• Councillor Jack Hopkins, Leader, London Borough of Lambeth
• Mayor John Biggs, London Borough of Tower Hamlets
• Mayor Roksahna Fiaz, London Borough of Newham
• John Sparkes, CEO, Crisis
• Howard Sinclair CBE, CEO, St Mungo’s
• Bill Tidnam, CEO, Thames Reach
• Rick Henderson, CEO, Homeless Link
2. For more information on the Mayor’s No Nights Sleeping Rough Taskforce, visithttps://www.london.gov.uk/what-we-do/housing-and-land/homelessness/no-ni...
3. In the last year, 3,875 people were helped by frontline Mayoral services, up from 3,123 the year before.
4. The rough sleeping figures are from CHAIN – a database the Mayor funds that records everyone who is seen rough sleeping in London for one or more nights. For more information visithttps://data.london.gov.uk/dataset/chain-reports
5. In 2019/20 City Hall total rough sleeping budget is at least £18m– up from £8.5m in the year the Mayor came to office. City Hall services operate alongside those commissioned by local councils in London.
6. Government policies mean the increasing number of non-UK nationals on the streets, particularly those from central and eastern European, are usually unable to access accommodation and services. The Mayor funds ‘Routes Home’, a service run by homelessness charity St Mungo’s, which helps some vulnerable non-UK nationals sleeping rough in London, and he is making the case for further help for this group.
7. Those new to the streets are those who have not been contacted by outreach teams rough sleeping previously.
8. In April the Mayor hailed Londoners’ generosity after they donated a record £247,742 to his winter rough sleeping campaign. The funds will be split equally between 22 London homelessness charities who came together as part of the Mayor’s campaign. For more information on the campaign visit: https://www.london.gov.uk/end-homelessness

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