• Rough Sleeping and Support for the self-employed

    Mid Devon Advertiser
    09 June 2020

    Government figures published in February estimated that 4,266 people in England are sleeping rough on a 'typical night' and data from council suggests around 25,000 people are sleeping rough at least once a year. Although across the country the nightly figure was 9% lower than the previous year, the South West was one of two regions which actually showed an increase. The root causes of rough sleeping are complex and include (but are by no means limited to) mental health problems, domestic violence, drug and alcohol addiction and severe financial difficulty. There are also systematic problems such as releases from prison. Having spent time with prisoners during a rehabilitation programme at HMP Channing's Wood, I know that this is a key issue. Many I met had been inside many times because on release they found themselves without proper accommodation and felt they faced a choice of sleeping rough or returning to crime. 

    The Homelessness Reduction Act of 2017 was the most significant piece of legislation in a generation in terms of a Government's commitment to reduce homelessness and rough sleeping. But more needs to be done and I am very encouraged that the Government has announced further action and more funding. The support provided to rough sleepers during the coronavirus pandemic has received little media attention but has been one of the silver linings of this crisis with more than 90% of rough sleepers known to councils at the beginning of the pandemic having been offered accommodation. The Government has now announced that £160 million will be provided to help rough sleepers currently housed in emergency accommodation to move on to more sustainable, long-term housing. By increasing the funding announced for rough sleeping services in the March Budget to £433 million and accelerating when it will be spent, 6,000 new housing units will be put into the system, with 3,300 of these becoming available in the next 12 months. Crucially, this will be backed up by support from specialist staff for those with mental health or substance abuse problems so they can rebuild their lives. 

    Last week the Government announced an extension to the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS). So far 2.3 million claims worth £6.8 billion have been made to SEISS, and eligible workers will be able to claim a second and final grant in August. The grant will be worth 70% of their average monthly trading profits, paid out in a single instalment covering three months' worth of profits, and capped at £6,750 in total. Great support for self-employed workers is something the House of Commons Treasury Select Committee, which I chair, has pressed for, and I am delighted that the Chancellor has listened. Figures from the Office for National Statistics show the proportion of workers  who are self-employed is around 50% higher in Central Devon than the national average, so this extension is especially good news for the thousands of self-employed workers in our constituency. 

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