PAC Inquiry into COVID-19 and Rough Sleeping

Solace calls for urgent action on women’s homelessness during lockdown

The powerful Public Account Select Committee (PAC) is conducting an inquiry into Covid-19 and housing rough sleepers, examining the facts around the Government’s rehousing of rough sleepers during the COVID-19 pandemic and Government’s plans for solving rough sleeping in the longer term. 

Based on our work with survivors of VAWG who have experienced multiple forms of disadvantage including rough sleeping, we submitted evidence highlighting the different experiences and needs of women to the Committee, and under the current lockdown restrictions calling on the Government to:

  • urgently clarify whether it will continue to reimburse councils for accommodating rough sleepers; 
  • collect sex disaggregated data on the people being supported in emergency accommodation; 
  • work with councils to assess the extent to which there is women-only accommodation and provide it for women who request it;  
  • provide reassurance that immigration controls should not be enforced while public health restrictions are in place and consider whether these rules should be bought into force at all; and 
  • Send clear communication to local authorities reminding them of their existing duties to support people made homeless by domestic abuse.    

We welcome the Government’s crucial Ask Ani and #youarenotalone initiatives, but these assurances to survivors currently living with abusers must be backed up with sufficient funding for frontline services like ours. Leaving an abuser has been documented to be one of the most dangerous points for survivors. If victims reach out for help and are not accommodated, many face a choice between staying with an abuser or homelessness. If their abuser becomes aware of their attempt to seek help, they are likely to face an escalation of abuse compounded by household isolation under covid-19 restrictions. During the first and second lockdowns the Government provided emergency funding that was welcome but fell short of need. This time, which may be the longest lockdown yet, there have been no such announcements.

The Government must also ensure that local authorities carry out their existing duties under the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017, and adhere to their forthcoming duties under the Domestic Abuse Bill. Amendments already made to the Bill mean that people made homeless as a result of domestic abuse should be guaranteed priority housing, the Government should set out in its statutory guidance that they should also be given the highest banding/points so that their priority status translates into provision of a new home.

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