Rough Sleeping

MQT on 2017-09-14
Session date: 
September 14, 2017
Question By: 
Tom Copley
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


After rough sleeping increased under your predecessor, what assessments will you put in place to ensure any measures taken to reduce rough sleeping are achieving success?


Answer for Rough Sleeping

Answer for Rough Sleeping

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  The latest statistics show that during my first year, the rise in rough sleeping has effectively halted for the first time since 2009.  It rose every year from 2009 to 2016, with 8,108 people seen in the streets last year, virtually unchanged from the year before.  This contrasts with a rise of 7% the year before and a doubling since 2010, when the reported figure was 3,975.  Since I became Mayor, a sharper focus on rough sleeping has shown early signs of progress, but these figures highlight just how much work needs to be done.  Clearly one person living rough on the streets of our great city is one too many.  The fact remains that over 8,000 people sleeping rough in a global city like London is simply unacceptable.


I am determined to do something about it and so have established my No Nights Sleeping Rough taskforce to bring together key partners to identify what interventions are needed to help rough sleepers off the streets.  Last year, the taskforce helped secure an additional £4.2 milliontowards new targeted services for rough sleepers.  I have also recently announced a number of smaller projects funded by my £1 million Rough Sleeping Innovation Fund (RSIF), including a new web-based tool to cross-check key details from the Missing People database with those on my Combined Homelessness and Information Network (CHAIN) database on rough sleepers in London, two projects helping female rough sleepers and a project based on the Housing First principles to help those with multiple and complex needs.  All these services look to help rough sleepers by recognising the complex, varied reasons why people end up on the streets.  The taskforce includes representatives from the key councils and organisations who are helping rough sleepers and are well-placed to make sure our services are comprehensive and effective.


What is more, the investment I am making in new and improved services, such as my new night transport team, to help the number of rough sleepers who use the Night Tubes and buses may mean the number of people seen sleeping rough rises in the short term.  I am working closely with the Government’s new rough sleeping and homelessness taskforce and advisory panel not only to make the case for extra resources, but also for the Government to address the longer-term underlying causes of rough sleeping.


Tom Copley AM:  Thank you very much for that answer, Mr Mayor.  I particularly welcome the action you have announced recently on people who are sleeping on public transport.  We have been looking at hidden homelessness on the Housing Committee recently and it is a big problem.  First of all, there was some concern about the data-sharing between CHAIN and the Home Office.  That was happening under a memorandum of understanding (MOU) established under your predecessor.  Can I ask what progress you have made establishing a new MOU with the Home Office and what measures to define data-sharing analysis will this contain and will it be published by the GLA?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Thank you for your question.  It is just worth reminding ourselves that EU citizens do not have access or recourse to public funds or some of the other facilities that UK citizens have access to.  Often, they are vulnerable and they are in crisis, so they need support.  I want to make sure that the Government’s policy is implemented in a way that ensures that EU nationals sleeping rough get the advice and information they need to live safely in London and to make sure those who are vulnerable are given the support they need if they choose to return home, accessing those services they need.  We are currently working on the MOU.  Deputy Mayor [for Housing and Residential Development] James Murray is working on that.  I have got no problems at all sharing that with you in your role once that has been finalised.  As you will appreciate, there is a consultation, there is negotiation taking place with the Home Office.  The key issue you are alluding to is the sharing of data that is taking place routinely and my understanding is it is aggregated data shared routinely, and the concern you will have, I suspect, is individual level data.  I will make sure that James Murray shares that with you.


Tom Copley AM:  Thank you.  I welcome that being published.  There was a rather damning National Audit Office (NAO) report this week into the Department for Communities and Local Government’s (DCLG) handling of the doubling of rough sleeping and the impacts of homelessness on public spending.  What actions would you like to see from the Government to support efforts to reduce homelessness and eliminate rough sleeping in London?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  The NAO report is extremely useful because there is now a direct link that the NAO shows between some of the welfare benefit changes from the Government and street homelessness, rough sleeping.


Tom Copley AM:  Directly contributing to the rise in homelessness?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Cause and effect.  The NAO, as I say, is inarguable.  The obvious thing the Government could do is change their welfare benefit policies, which are accelerating people leaving home and living rough on the streets.  We have got to recognise some of the problems are complex: mental health issues, it could be family breakdown, some of the issues around young people not having work and welfare benefits, alcohol dependencies.  That is often the reason why we work with charities, who are experts in this field, but the Government needs to do much, much more.  I welcome the involvement of Sajid Javid [MP, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government] in chairing the taskforce.  James Murray will be attending that.  We are working closely with the Government, not simply resources to deal with the issues, but stopping people being made homeless, rough sleepers, in the first place.


Tom Copley AM:  Thank you very much, Mr Mayor