Rishi Sunak to promise £150m extra spending on homelessness

The chancellor, Rishi Sunak, will use the spending review on Wednesday to set out the government’s ambition to tackle homelessness after the coronavirus pandemic with a multimillion-pound funding boost.

The Treasury said an additional £151m would be made available for the next financial year, beginning in April 2021, to help rough sleepers and prevent homelessness.

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It said this would be in addition to the £103m that had already been promised for 2021-22 in Sunak’s first budget in March when the Covid crisis first struck, and would represent a 60% increase on plans laid out by his predecessor, Sajid Javid.

The funds will boost the “rough sleeping initiative” programme launched in 2018, provide more money to councils to prevent rough sleeping, and aid prison leavers at risk of homelessness, according to the Treasury.

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The funding boost comes amid growing concern over the dangers for rough sleepers during the second Covid wave as winter approaches, and as the economic effects of the pandemic lead to rising levels of unemployment and financial hardship.

Charities have warned that the legacy of the crisis could be a sharp rise in the number of homeless people without urgent additional funding for housing and helping those at risk of losing a roof over their heads.

Earlier this month, a group of leading homelessness charities and service providers called on Sunak to use the spending review to raise spending to continue the work of the “everyone in” strategy to protect thousands of homeless people from the second wave of the crisis.

About 15,000 homeless people were provided with emergency accommodation in hotels during the first wave of the pandemic in March and April this year as part of the policy. The government also announced £15m of additional winter funding for areas with high numbers of rough sleepers.

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However, the charities warned in a letter to the chancellor that higher levels of investment this year needed to be maintained. They also warned that almost £1bn of funding cut from council homelessness budgets needed to be restored in full on top of this increase, after a sharp rise in people sleeping on the streets over the past decade when the government slashed budgets in its austerity drive.

The Treasury said next year’s funding boost would take total resource spending on homelessness to £676m, up from £422m originally earmarked at the 2019 spending review.

The government is also expected to confirm £87m of additional infrastructure investment for the rough sleeping accommodation programme, which aims to provide people with secure, long-term accommodation. The Treasury said the overall level of funding for tackling homelessness and rough sleeping would rise in 2021-22, compared with 2020-21.

“The pandemic has had devastating impacts on the poorest in our society, and we will do everything we can to support those who have been hardest hit,” Sunak said.

“This additional support will be key to supporting rough sleepers on the first step of their journey off their streets and into homes.”

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