Rough sleeping in Nottingham reaches highest level for nearly 20 years

15 Aug 2016
by Victoria Harrison

 Rough sleeping in Nottingham reaches highest level for nearly 20 years

More people are sleeping rough in Nottingham that at any point since the late 1990s, a leading charity has warned.

Framework, which provides outreach, accommodation, training and treatment services for homeless and vulnerable people in the city, found 33 people sleeping rough during its latest count in July – an 83% increase on the same month last year, and the highest figure recorded since its first formal count back in 1998. The latest count uses a consistent methodology, agreed with the City Council, in line with government guidelines.

The charity’s Street Outreach Team, which works directly with rough sleepers, is still able to help most people off the streets, but is now struggling to cope with the pressure of demand. It believes the rise has been caused by a mixture of welfare reforms (particularly reductions and restrictions on Housing Benefit and Local Housing Allowance), reduced national investment in housing and support, increased pressure on existing services, and a lack of assistance for non-UK nationals.

Framework Chief Executive Andrew Redfern said: "These new figures are very worrying indeed, but, sadly they don’t come as a surprise. We have been warning for several years that cuts to services and restrictions on benefits for the most vulnerable would lead to an increase in homelessness and rough sleeping. Sadly we have been proved right.

"This is not something that is happening only in Nottingham. The local crisis reflects a national picture, and ultimately the responsibility for it lies with Central Government. It’s not enough for them simply to point the finger at local authorities. Councils like Nottingham City have seen their resources diminish and been forced to take tough decisions. Most services in the City have been maintained, but this is no longer enough to offset the impact of decisions taken elsewhere – including by Derby, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and other neighbouring authorities. A failure to prevent homelessness in one locality can and does exacerbate the problem in another."

Rough Sleeping has more than doubled since 2010 across England as a whole, with a rise of 30% in the last year alone. Until recently, Nottingham has recorded smaller

increases than other cities. But this is now changing as agencies struggle to cope with the number of people seeking help.

Mr Redfern added: "In cooperation with the City Council, the police and other partners, our Outreach Team has done incredibly well to keep a lid on this problem for the past few years. The ‘No Second Night Out’ Scheme – funded by the City Council with a contribution from Framework’s fundraising, has been an important avenue for them.

"However, the team is now struggling to respond to the range of needs presented by an increased number of rough sleepers. These include non-UK nationals, who comprise more than a third of the individuals the team has supported over the past three months. Contrary to what some believe, these people are not entitled to the same level of state support as UK citizens. Indeed, many of those now sleeping rough receive no benefits at all."

Rough sleeping expert Jason Marriott, Framework’s Street Outreach Manager, added:

"The lack of income greatly limits our options to help non-UK nationals, because there is simply no money available to provide them with the accommodation they need. The best option may be to reconnect them to their own country or local area – ensuring as we do so that they have appropriate support in place when they return home. But supported reconnection also incurs a cost in the UK that has to be met by someone."

"The experience of homelessness is traumatic, and rough sleeping is dangerous. Multiple studies have linked it to enduring physical and mental health conditions, substance misuse and offending. Indeed, many rough sleepers have multiple and complex needs that must be taken into account when trying to place them in suitable housing. The lack of capacity here and elsewhere limits our options; sometimes, and much more frequently than in the past, there are none. This is why the numbers are rising so fast."

Framework is urgently discussing this issue with key partners. As well as searching for long-term solutions it is pressing the case for an enhanced ‘Severe Weather Emergency Protocol’ (SWEP) for the coming winter. The SWEP is overseen by the City Council and Framework believes the emphasis this year should be on additional capacity to bring as many people as possible indoors during the period of greatest risk to life and health.

In the meantime, members of the public are asked to continue helping the outreach team by using a free-phone hotline number to report the locations of people they see sleeping rough. This can be called 24/7 on 0800 066 5356. Texts (beginning with the message SOT) can be sent to 80800.

Help us to change this worrying statistic.
Click here and donate £5 monthly here.

Just £5 answers a call for help. Supporting Framework monthly funds a hand helping keep people off the streets every day.

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