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No one needs to sleep rough-December 2018

person sleeping in the steets

Homeless person sleeping (YHNE,2018)

Severe weather emergency protocol (SWEP) aims to get people off the streets during periods of adverse weather, by providing emergency accommodation to anyone sleeping rough.

The government’s vision under their strategy ‘No one left out – Communities end rough sleeping’ (November 2008) and subsequent strategy ‘Vision to end rough sleeping – no second night out’ (July 2011) made a pledge to eliminate rough sleeping by 2012. This has not been achieved and people still experience rough sleeping.

In August 2018 the Ministry of Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) launched a new rough sleeping initiative that sets out the government’s vision for halving rough sleeping by 2022 and ending it by 2027. To support delivery of this strategy a ministerial task group has been created and specialist advisors recruited.

In contrast to the rest of the country, the North East region continues to have considerably fewer rough sleepers. However, we are currently awaiting the latest figures following this year’s rough sleeping counts and estimates by the regions twelve Local Authorities. Anecdotally there have been reports of increased numbers of rough sleeping including more young people. Although there is no legal requirement, local authorities have a moral obligation to ensure that there is provision in place for people sleeping rough during severe weather, to prevent harm and death.

Previously, the minimum SWEP response from Local Authorities was to open provision when there was a forecast of zero degrees, or below zero, for three consecutive nights; a more flexible approach is now recommended. The three-night guideline was an attempt to define ‘severe weather’, but a commonsense approach is now widely adopted as standard practice, where SWEP triggers consider weather warnings, near-freezing temperatures, rain, snow, wind chill, gales or heat. For more information about SWEP, see Homeless Link’s guidance: www.homeless.org.uk/swep

This is everyone’s responsibility. It is important for the public to understand that anyone can access help for someone who is rough sleeping or suspected rough sleeping by reporting directly to StreetLink by calling 0300 500 0914 or visiting www.streetlink.org.uk

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