City council publishes report commissioned by Mayor Joe Anderson which calls for a change in legislation that prevents people from claiming support. Tony McDonough reports
A sharp rise in the number of rough sleepers is due to failings in the benefits system and the health service, a new report claims.
Commissioned by Liverpool’s elected Mayor Joe Anderson, the report calls for a change in legislation that prevents people from claiming support.
It said the policy of “no recourse to public funds” was as a major contributory factor in the growth of rough sleeping in the past decade.
As well as calling on the Government to urgently review how those with no address can claim benefits, the “Routes out of Rough Sleeping” report also identifies failings within the health service to meet the complex needs of rough sleepers – with 71% having some form of mental health issue.
The publication of the report came the day after John Bird, founder of the Big Issue, said the UK was facing its worst homelessness crisis in more than two decades.
Mr Bird set up the magazine, sold on the street by homeless people, in the early 1990s and he said radical action was required by Government to prevent a return of those days.
The Liverpool report was co-authored by John Finnegan, chief executive of the Liverpool Homeless Football League and Simon Whitter, who was once a rough sleeper.
It has identified 10 key action points to help tackle the underlying causes of rough sleeping and called for an academic based study into the issue
They also state that the time has come for a major public awareness campaign to debunk myths around homelessness, and for the establishment of a new charity to ensure funds are directly benefiting those affected.
Mayor Anderson said: “I’d like to thank John and Simon. I know both have personally committed their lives to improving the lot of those who have been unfortunate to find themselves living on the street which is why these findings cannot and should not be ignored.”
The 10 recommendations of the report are:
- Establish a Community of Practice for Rough Sleepers
- Coordinate voluntary sector provision
- Campaign for a national change to No Recourse to Public Funds
- Deliver a clear Communications Campaign
- Provide an alternative mechanism for charitable giving
- Provide more joined up and better resourced health provision
- Deliver a more sustainable housing solution for vulnerable, young people
- Review existing provision to ensure quality & relevance
- Ensure ongoing innovation through investment
- Tackle the wider issue of street living
Michelle Langan, founder of Liverpool’s Paper Cup Project which sees teams of volunteers offering help to the city’s rough sleepers, claimed she “struggled to find” any innovative or radical solutions in the report.
She added: “There was no mention of Housing First, which I had expected to see, as the council supported a huge research project on it earlier in the year.
“It’s no shame for authorities to hold their hands up and say, ‘the current approach isn’t working, let’s try something new and different,’ but that just isn’t there.
“It’s disappointing that the people who wrote the report feel that the volunteer street teams are enabling rough sleepers. It’s unfair, and discredits the hard work of the people who are out every night in all weathers, offering food and support and signposting people to the right help.
“For me, the wrong issues have been focused on. I want to see radical solutions, like Andy Burnham is currently offering in Greater Manchester.”