Coronavirus – an update for members providing homelessness services

03 April 2020

We’ve been speaking with our members to establish the impact the coronavirus outbreak is having on homelessness services.

We’re working with members and the government to help keep vital services running at this challenging time. Read on for key updates on:

  • Supporting vital services.
  • Temporary accommodation for rough sleepers
  • Emergency funding

To share your feedback, or ask questions about our work on coronavirus, please email our team. For further updates on our work, visit our main coronavirus webpages.

Supporting vital services

Housing associations are planning carefully for how to keep vital services running during the coronavirus crisis – including homelessness provision. They face a number of challenges at this time.

We are working with government to communicate these challenges, including staff shortages and the costs of backfilling posts, funding for staff, equipment and transport, staff and service user safety including PPE, and ensuring ongoing support provision.

We have been in touch with Homeless Link about their guidance for the homelessness and sector, and have offered to share relevant practice from our membership that may be included in the guidance. We have also gathered resources on our website. We support Homeless Link’s asks to enable homelessness services to operate effectively and respond safely to the crisis.

Temporary accommodation for rough sleepers

Housing associations are working closely with national and local government to provide emergency support to rough sleepers. On 17 March, the government announced £3.2m emergency funding to help rough sleepers self-isolate during the coronavirus outbreak, and on 27 March, asked all local authorities to house all rough sleepers by 29 March.

We support the government’s efforts and would be keen to see that plans are being put in place to make sure the people accommodated can be rehoused long term. We are monitoring how the accommodation is being provided and how support is being guaranteed in the new accommodation settings.

One issue we will be looking into further is the availability of voids to be used for this type of accommodation and for hospital discharge.

Emergency funding

There are a number of funds charities can apply to for financial help during the coronavirus crisis.

Webinar – supported housing and homelessness services

This webinar from 2-3pm on 9 April will look at issues specific to supported housing and homelessness services, and give examples of how you be may responding to the crisis. You will hear from John Glenton, Executive Director of Care and Support at Riverside, on supported housing and from Beatrice Orchard, Head of Policy, Campaigns and Research, on homelessness.

The session will be chaired by Catherine Ryder, Director of Policy and Research at the National Housing Federation. There will be an opportunity to ask written questions that the chair will address during the session.

Register for the webinar here

The potential impact of the Coronavirus Act on care provision and homelessness services

The Coronavirus Act 2019-21 proposes changes to the way health and social care is delivered to give public bodies the “tools and powers they need to carry out an effective response” to the coronavirus emergency, amidst managing increasing numbers of patients needing medical treatment and staff shortages. The legislation will be in place for an initial period of two years, though this could be shortened or lengthened by regulations and will be reviewed every six months.

Some of the proposed changes have been received with concern by different organisations, specifically in relation to social care, mental health, hospital discharge and ongoing healthcare provision. These organisations have highlighted the following potential adverse effects on homelessness service provision:

  • Suspending the need to do new social care needs assessments unless not to do so would breach the person’s human rights, which could potentially lead to unidentified care needs in newly homeless people.
  • Suspending the need to review care plans, which could mean a person with care needs living in homelessness accommodation does not get ongoing care.
  • Suspending the duty to provide continuity of care when a person moves between local authority areas, which could mean that a homeless person moved out of area because of bed capacity does not get the ongoing care they need or are not assessed as needing care but hostel staff may need to provide this.
  • Although hospital discharges are still only meant to be done where it is safe to do so, accelerating hospital discharge and delaying follow-up care assessments could lead to increased numbers of people being discharged into homelessness with a care need and these people will need to be accommodated in (potentially new, ad-hoc) emergency accommodation/hostels.
  • Local authority homeless teams do not need to be informed of impending discharges of patients who are likely to be homeless on discharge – these people could potentially end up sleeping rough and be exposed to risk.
  • It may be that the suspension of hospital aftercare assessments will apply to psychiatric hospitals too. The need to care for that person may fall on the homeless hostel they could end up in.

We are reviewing this information in further detail to understanding whether these changes could put pressure on supported housing to fill any gaps in care provision.

If you have any questions, please get in touch.