‘Everyone In’ pandemic scheme ‘by definition has finished’, say MPs

Jemma Crew, PA Social Affairs Correspondent
·4-min read

The Government’s flagship Everyone In programme, which saw thousands of rough sleepers brought to safety at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, “by definition has finished”, MPs have said.

A report from the cross-party Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee said the initiative was no longer helping everyone in need of accommodation, with some people who had no recourse to public funds (NRPF) “bereft” of support.

NRPF is a standard condition applied to people staying in the UK with a temporary immigration status, which means they cannot access most state financial support.

In March last year, local authorities were instructed to rapidly rehouse all rough sleepers in emergency accommodation, such as hotels, including people previously not eligible for public assistance.

But two months later councils were told they should carry out individual assessments and must judge what support they may lawfully give to each person.

The MPs say this led to confusion and inconsistent approaches, with some people subject to NRPF being asked to leave their accommodation and others no longer being accepted for support.

They say some of this group have been forced to rely entirely on charity help, which is “not good enough”.

The report follows a recent High Court judgment, which said rough sleepers who would not usually be eligible for help can be given emergency housing during the pandemic, after a council refused accommodation to a person who applied in September.

More than 37,000 people have been helped into accommodation as part of the scheme, with 11,263 people still in emergency accommodation.

It is not clear how many people subject to NRPF are homeless and in emergency accommodation. The Government has said it does not collect this data.

The Government said the Everyone In scheme is ongoing and it is “misleading” for the committee to suggest otherwise.

New rough sleeping minister Eddie Hughes has previously told the committee that local and central government and charities “seem as committed as ever they were to this project”.

The committee’s report says: “Everyone In by definition has finished.

“The Government believes Everyone In continues to exist, but by its own admission it is no longer helping everyone.

“The principle of Everyone In was that everyone, no matter what their normal eligibility for homelessness assistance, would be provided with accommodation to self-isolate by their local authority.

“The Government made a clear decision to change this from May 2020 onwards.”

The committee is calling for the Government to “recommit” to the spirit at the start of the pandemic to bring everyone to safety.

It wants the Government to publish guidance so that local authorities are clear that they can provide accommodation for this group, and enable this through funding.

A task force should be set up to address the impact of the NRPF condition on homelessness, the report says.

 Labour MP Clive Betts
Labour MP Clive Betts is chairman of the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee (Lauren Hurley/PA)

Labour MP and committee chairman Clive Betts said the Government had done great work over the past year but cracks were emerging and “people are being allowed to fall through the gaps”.

He said: “Individuals with no recourse to public funds due to their immigration status need to be helped, especially during a national health emergency. Relying on charities to step in is not good enough.

“The Government needs to be clear with local authorities on their responsibilities, and provide sufficient funding to support them.

“They should also develop a task force to consider exactly how policies on immigration, housing and elsewhere impact on homelessness and come up with solutions to address them.

“They have set a target of ending rough sleeping by 2024. We will hold them to this standard.”

The report also calls for a road map out of the debt crisis threatening private renters and landlords.

Eleventh-hour eviction ban extensions must be replaced with a coherent exit plan, and financial support given to renters who have amassed significant arrears, it recommends.

The MPs say that this potential cost, of between £200 and £300 million, would prevent significant expenditure on homelessness assistance.

Mr Betts said the situation was “deeply concerning”.

A Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government spokesman said: “Everyone In is still ongoing and for the committee to suggest otherwise is misleading.

“We have spent over £700 million this year and are spending £750 million next year on tackling homelessness and rough sleeping.

“We are also working with partners to learn any lessons from the pandemic and as part of our ambitious plans to end rough sleeping for good.

“We’ve acted to give renters robust protection during the pandemic, with longer notice periods of six months and banning bailiff enforcement of evictions for all but the most serious cases until 31 May.”

Ben Beadle, chief executive of the National Residential Landlords Association, welcomed the calls for a plan to tackle debt accrued during the pandemic.

He said: “We wholeheartedly support the committee’s call for action to support tenants to repay rent arrears to be a top priority, including consideration of making payments direct to landlords.

“As the report notes, this would be the best way to sustain tenancies and help landlords receive income.”