Lewisham has been praised for its coordinated action helping homeless people through the pandemic.
A new report, published by the Kerslake Commission, examines how the country coped with protecting homeless people and rough sleepers during the Covid-19 lockdown.
The report singles out how Lewisham Council, the NHS South East London Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and their partners came together to provide an effective multi-agency response to the crisis.
When the first lockdown was announced in March 2020 the Government launched the nationwide ‘Everyone In’ initiative to provide safe, individual accommodation to people living on the streets.
Lewisham Council and the CCG worked with GPs and the Health Inclusion Team (HIT) to deliver a joined up, health focused response.
In the early part of the first lockdown 136 people were taken off the streets in the borough and put in safe, single room accommodation in hostels and other properties.
Other rough sleepers,identified at later stages of the crisis, were also brought into safe accommodation.
The Council carried out risk assessments for every building and we worked with hostels and supporting housing providers to establish risk management strategies.
There was regular testing of residents and the staff looking after them, as well as additional support needed for what were very vulnerable residents.
A self-isolation service in a 24 hour self-contained hostel, managed by St Mungo’s, was available.
Accessing the Londonwide Find and Treat service, an NHS street outreach service, enabled the Council to pick up and deal with any outbreaks early via testing in hostels.
Lewisham also set up a rough sleeper supported housing pathway to enable homeless people to transition to independent living.
The team supported providers to implement ‘bubbles’ in shared services; attended residents’ house meetings via Zoom to give guidance and offered one-to-one support for services to ensure suspected Covid cases were responded to swiftly.
The majority of people taken off the streets were assisted into new homes, either in supported accommodation, resettled into private sector or social housing or resettled via the rough sleeper housing pathway.
Councillor Paul Bell, Cabinet Member for Housing and Planning, said:
“Protecting vulnerable people living on the streets was one of the biggest challenges of the lockdown for councils. By working closely with the CCG and our health partners we were able to get rough sleepers off the streets, keep them safe and give them the support and help they needed to stay off the streets.
“The longer term lesson from Everyone In is that partnership working and adequate government funding can make a huge difference in combatting rough sleeping. We need a commitment from the government to continue to support the good work that is being done.”
Martin Wilkinson, Director of Integrated Care and Commissioning, Lewisham Council and NHS South East London CCG, said:
“I am proud of the dedication that CCG and Council staff, clinicians and other partners showed, working together to protect the health and wellbeing of some of our most vulnerable residents at such a challenging time.”
The protocols developed during the lockdown also helped the vaccine rollout, with high vaccination take up amongst formerly homeless and vulnerable adults in the borough.
A strategic group has been set up to oversee a multi-agency approach to rough sleeping in Lewisham going forward.
The Kerslake Commission on Homelessness and Rough Sleepingreport, When We Work Together – learning the lessons, was published 23 September 2021.
For more information and to access the full report go to: www.commissiononroughsleeping.org