Additional 2,500 people across Greater Manchester at risk of needing rough sleeping support before end of 2023, Mayor warns

Date published: 17 November 2023

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham has warned that an additional 2,500 people across Greater Manchester are at risk of needing rough sleeping support before the end of the year.

The mayor has made an urgent call on government to work with Greater Manchester to prevent an increase in homelessness and rough sleeping, as national policy decisions put growing pressure on local services.

The Mayor made the comments on Friday (10 November) as he took part in a conference co-hosted by Homeless Link to mark the achievements of the Greater Manchester Housing First scheme, which he said had been a “game-changer” for the region.

He warned that progress made across Greater Manchester, including through Housing First, was being jeopardised by the consequences of government policies that increased demand at a local level without additional funding and resources.

He highlighted the recent acceleration of processing asylum applications, saying it showed a lack of joined-up working across government.

Without the accompanying resources, he warned, an additional 2,500 people are liable to be in need of homelessness and rough sleeping support across Greater Manchester before the end of 2023.

The number of people sleeping rough on a single night in 2022 was 62% lower than the peak in 2017 and Greater Manchester consistently achieves better results than the national average on rough sleeping.

However, 2022 also saw the official rough sleeper count for Greater Manchester rise for the first time in five years by 13 percent to 102 cases and in August 2023 the numbers rose further at 145 cases. It is expected that the official count which takes place this month will see numbers increase even more.

Housing First, originally rolled out as a pilot scheme in 2019, recognises the essential importance of permanent housing to enable people with multiple and complex needs to move away from homelessness.

It says traditional services do not work for many people who are experiencing homelessness, which is why some individuals continue to sleep rough or move around the system. Housing First offers a ‘person-centred and trauma-informed approach’ which it says is a better way of supporting these individuals.

The combination of this support and permanent accommodation means that the number of people more likely to stay in their homes and not end up back on the streets is considerably higher in Housing First programmes compared to other programmes, representing value for money.

Since it was launched in Greater Manchester, nearly 375 people with entrenched experiences of rough sleeping have been supported into safe and secure accommodation, with more than three-quarters of those people sustaining their tenancies.

Greater Manchester Housing First is a partnership between 12 organisations across the region, led by the Great Places Housing Group.

Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham said: “Instead of criminalising charities for providing tents we should be supporting interventions we know are effective to become business as usual.

“The ‘Everyone In’ initiative proved that, if you provide unconditional access to housing and wraparound support, people can leave rough sleeping behind for good. Housing First is a lifelong extension of that concept and has been a game-changer in our efforts to end rough sleeping.

“Homelessness is the end product of systemic failures in our housing market, not a lifestyle choice.

“If the government is serious about ending rough sleeping, I would urge them to work with us, our local authorities, housing providers, VCSE and faith sectors to tackle all the barriers and give people who need it a roof over their heads, so they are safe and have a home.

“This also means extending funding for the very successful Housing First pilot or better still, make it permanent and roll it out across the country.”

Last month, Greater Manchester leaders warned that the region was facing unprecedented demand on local services, in part as a result of national policy decisions.

They identified three key areas where there are a record number of people requiring support from their council, including an increase in ‘no fault’ evictions, record pressures in homelessness support services and undue strain on support services as a result of clearing the backlog of asylum decisions.

In Greater Manchester, there are over 5,000 households in temporary accommodation, over 2,600 owed a prevention duty, over 3,600 owed a relief duty, and over 1,180 owed a main duty.

Furthermore, the number of long-term empty homes has increased nationally by nearly 10% over the past five years, the equivalent of just over 1% of the country’s housing stock, a new report commissioned by the Local Government Association revealed.

Despite the introduction of an empty homes premium in 2013, aimed at encouraging owners to bring empty properties back into use, along with efforts of councils, numbers continue to rise.

Nationally, there are currently more than one million people on council housing waiting lists and 104,000 households living in temporary accommodation.

The LGA says bringing just 10% of these empty homes back into use could help to find permanent homes for households in temporary accommodation. 

The number of homelessness duties owed as a result of a Section 21 ‘no fault’ eviction has increased by 41% over the last twelve months of available data.

The volume is at its highest in Greater Manchester since records began, with 436 homelessness prevention cases generated across the region as a result of such evictions – up from 309 in the same quarter the year before, and 163 in the year before that.

The Home Office is ramping up the number of asylum decisions it makes over the winter period while reducing the effective notice periods people are given to leave their accommodation, leaving little time to prevent homelessness.

In Greater Manchester, the GMCA says this is ‘likely’ to result in a doubling or trebling of the number of people at risk of homelessness due to being evicted from the asylum system locally. This pressure can result in increased homelessness risk and there has been a significant increase in the number of non-UK nationals accessing A Bed Every Night.

Leaders set out a range of proposals to mitigate these challenges, including unfreezing Local Housing Allowance in the Autumn Statement, bringing forward measures in the Renters’ Reform Act, increasing investment in homelessness and rough sleeping responses, and working closely with local authorities on long-term investment in prevention services.

Mr Burnham added: “We have been completely committed to making Housing First work in Greater Manchester, and we have the results to prove it.

“We also have a raft of other programmes that have helped reduce rough sleeping over the years, including A Bed Every Night, which operates in all ten of our boroughs with 552 bed spaces and supports over 830 people a month.

“However, despite all our collective best efforts in Greater Manchester to reduce rough sleeping, the numbers are now creeping back up. This is a direct result of unprecedented demand on our services caused by government policies, from the freeze in Local Housing Allowance to asylum policies that have seen people turfed out of their homes and on to the streets, and a housing system that has seen over 5,000 households and over 6,400 children living in temporary accommodation in our city-region.

“If we truly want to end rough sleeping we need a real transformation of national housing policies and to tackle poverty and inequalities.

“I will be writing to the government to discuss our concerns and propose pragmatic solutions to design homelessness risk out of the asylum process.”

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