Greater Manchester tackles long-term rough sleeping but local services face intense pressure

  • Number of people seen sleeping rough on a single night in Greater Manchester reaches 149, up from 102 people in 2022, but remains 44% lower than in 2017
  • Data shows that over half (55%) of people seen over the course of December 2023 were new to the streets
  • Decrease in long-term rough sleeping across Greater Manchester, as evidence shows city-region’s prevention approach works
  • National increase driven by short term policymaking, following government decision to accelerate asylum decisions
  • Greater Manchester leaders express serious concern, calling for pause on evictions and government investment in refugee homelessness prevention

OFFICAL figures released today (Thursday 29 February) show life-changing interventions in Greater Manchester are helping to bring an end to entrenched rough sleeping – despite intense continued pressure on local services.

The number of people seen sleeping rough in Greater Manchester on a single night remains 44% below the peak in 2017, thanks to continued investment in efforts to end the need for rough sleeping.

However, snapshot figures have risen significantly, in line with a national increase and despite widespread evidence of what works to prevent homelessness. The single-night survey results, published today by Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities, found 149 people sleeping rough in Greater Manchester, up from 102 people in 2022.

After four years of reductions in the number of people counted across the city-region, decisions taken at national level – including the acceleration of asylum application processing, together with a reduction in notice periods for leaving accommodation and a chronic shortage of affordable, decent homes – have left many more people at risk of homelessness.

Data shows that over half (55%) of people seen over the course of December 2023 were new to the streets. In addition, 38% of individuals identified as newly experiencing rough sleeping in GM had been deemed to have left ‘an institution’ within 86 days - predominantly Home Office accommodation - rising from 8% in June 2023.

This 13-fold increase coincides with the start of the Home Office’s accelerated asylum decision-making programme, which has led to a significant increase in the volume and pace of asylum support cessations and evictions from asylum accommodation.

Despite significant progress preventing homelessness in areas where Greater Manchester enjoys strong collaboration between national government, local government and the VCFSE sector, national asylum and housing policy decisions continue to exert significant pressure on local authorities, leaving many people experiencing rough sleeping as a result.

Against this backdrop, Greater Manchester leaders are calling on Government to pause evictions from asylum accommodation until capacity in the homelessness system recovers, and for targeted investment to support local services in the areas most affected by the decisions.

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, said:

“We have a clear mission in Greater Manchester: to build a coalition across the city-region to prevent and end homelessness and rough sleeping for the long term. Every night spent on the street is a night too many, and I’m pleased to see our approach to tackling long-term rough sleeping is paying dividends.

“We have known for months that the unsustainable pace at which people are receiving asylum decisions and being evicted from Home Office accommodation is contributing to rising rough sleeping across the UK and placing pressure on local services, far beyond our control. The impact of those choices, coupled with the ongoing cost-of-living crisis and the squeeze on local budgets, is borne out in the figures we see today.

“That’s why we are calling on the government to pause evictions and invest in a proper programme of prevention and integration. We urgently need to move away from this dysfunctional system to the kind of collaborative approach that we know can help us end rough sleeping once and for all.”

Preventing homelessness

Since 2017, Greater Manchester has put in place a system of dedicated support schemes and strategic working, including A Bed Every Night, Housing First, and projects with the Probation Service, to reduce rough sleeping and tackle the root causes of homelessness. While the scale of the national challenge has grown, Greater Manchester’s commitment to end rough sleeping is stronger than ever.

Greater Manchester is proving that homelessness prevention works. Through collaboration, a clear homelessness prevention strategy, and targeted investment, Greater Manchester prevents homelessness and rough sleeping and has seen significant successes:

  • Collaboration between the GMCA, Local Authorities and the Probation Service has resulted in Greater Manchester being one of the top performance city-regions nationally, with only 1% of people sleeping rough in December being identified as having left prison in the last 3 months
  • The Greater Manchester Young Persons Homelessness Prevention Pathfinder, which provides targeted, early support, has helped more than 1,000 young people to prevent them from experiencing homelessness, with success rates of 70% for those who have achieved a housing outcome on the programme.

Ending rough sleeping

Additional data published today as part of the government’s new Ending Rough Sleeping for Good Data Framework shows where strong progress has been achieved in Greater Manchester, in alignment with the missions set out as part of the Government’s Ending Rough Sleeping for Good Strategy. This data shows the Greater Manchester continues to make significant progress on the most extreme form of homelessness: long term rough sleeping. Continued investment in initiatives like Greater Manchester Housing First and A Bed Every Night mean that Greater Manchester saw only 23% of people seen in December who were experiencing long term rough sleeping, significantly below the national average.  This offers evidence of where our collaboration and interventions are working successfully as well showing progress made over numerous years.

Paul Dennett, City Mayor of Salford and Greater Manchester’s Lead for Homelessness, said:

“Long-term rough sleeping is down across the city-region, and that’s something to be proud of. This is a result of excellent collaboration and coordination between councils, housing providers, health, probation services, Greater Manchester Police and our voluntary and faith sectors. 

“It’s therefore deeply disappointing to see that despite all our best efforts, the overall numbers are now going up. Accelerated asylum decisions are taking place in a broader context of delays to Local Housing Allowance uplift, a chronic lack of genuinely affordable housing, and now further uncertainty about the Renters Reform Bill – all of which impacts our ability to help people into education, employment and safe housing.

“We are facing a humanitarian crisis because of government decisions, which are being rushed through without any thought for the impact on people’s lives and communities.”

The GMCA and the city-region’s local authorities have stood up 200 units of additional emergency accommodation to cope with this increase in demand and invested and additional £1million in A Bed Every Night over the last 12 months.

Call to freeze evictions from the asylum system

At a meeting of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority on Friday 23 February (link opens in new window), Greater Manchester leaders called unanimously for a pause in evictions into homelessness from asylum accommodation, until capacity in the homelessness system recovers, alongside targeted government investment in areas most affected by the accelerated asylum process. Funding would support collaborative, community-based support for people while they are still in the asylum system and facilitate smooth transitions away from homelessness and into education, employment and safe housing.

The mayor is writing to the Home Secretary and the Housing Secretary to reiterate Greater Manchester leaders’ serious concerns and request a meeting to explore ways to move forward positively, for the benefit of all.

To address current upward trends in rough sleeping in the city-region and nationally, leaders are demanding a joined-up approach which prioritises prevention and integration, including: 

  • Immediate, targeted investment in local authority capacity to respond to the rough sleeping emergency and multi-year grants to enable longer-term response planning.
  • Extend notice periods for eviction from asylum accommodation to 56 days, in line with Homelessness Reduction Act duties.
  • Notification to local authorities of negative asylum decisions, in line with information received on positive decisions.
  • Emergency enhancement of the Advice, Issue Reporting and Eligibility Contract (AIRE) to ensure increased provision of face-to-face move-on support.
  • Address wider policy choices that are preventing access to housing and delaying integration for new refugees, including reforming or removing the benefit cap, and/or letting people seeking asylum work.
  • Delivery of a long term, national Housing Strategy which prioritises investment in genuinely affordable, social and council housing and is resilient to changing communities.

Although monthly counts of people rough sleeping take place across the 10 boroughs, the official rough sleeping count figure comes from the annual rough sleeping ‘snapshot’, which uses an annual street count to estimate the number of people sleeping out on a single night each autumn.

Article Published: 29/02/2024 14:59 PM