Increased infections, declining temperatures and stretched resources; a national ambivalence around emergency provision this winter

26 Oct 2021 11:24 AM

Blog posted by: Jo Prestidge, Monday, 25 October 2021.

Last November, Jo's blog on SWEP and winter provision was pretty clear that most areas were planning provision of single site accommodation to reduce the high risk of COVID-19 transmission amongst those in need of emergency housing.

Off the back of Everyone In, and before the vaccine roll out, there was a clear message from Government that communal shelters should be used as a last resort and this was mirrored in practice.

This year, the picture is a little murkier. Despite the increase in infections and hospitalisations, the directive to avoid the use of communal shelters is less strong and the intelligence we’ve gathered through our Sounding Board and Partnership Team suggests that across England there’s uncertainty and delayed planning as to how people sleeping rough, many of whom are clinically vulnerable, will be supported during the winter months.

Today we launch our refreshed SWEP and cold weather guidance to support areas in their planning this year. Incorporating new case studies from across the country, we encourage local authorities and their partners to continue seeking creative solutions for the provision of single occupancy accommodation as much as possible.

Not only are single rooms clinically safer and more humanising than shared spaces, feedback from people accessing emergency accommodation, collected for a review by Housing Justice, suggests that this is the preferred option. Manchester’s Emergency Accommodation Minimum Standards and accompanying film make a clear case as to why this is; people feel safer in their own rooms, something I’m sure we could all empathise with.

Local authorities have an important leadership role to play in bringing partners together to plan and implement emergency and extended winter provision, and there are many examples in our new guidance of local partnerships finding suitable solutions to prevent a return to how things were pre-pandemic.

However we aren’t naïve and recognise the significant challenges facing local authorities, and other organisations, to provide the number of bed spaces required within the resources that exist. We suggest:

We want to do all that we can to support the sector to build upon all the positive work of Everyone In so do get in touch to see how we can help.