Extended funding and aim for GP registration and covid vaccinations for Thanet’s rough sleepers

Extra funding to help Thanet's rough sleepers Photo Frank Leppard

Thanet’s RISE (Rough sleeper Intervention, Support and Empowerment) team has received a government funding extension as work to help those on the streets continues in the pandemic.

Funding had been due to run until April but will now continue until June 30. Bidding for Rough Sleeper Initiative funding for the remainder of the 2021/22 year is also being invited.

Thanet council has also received an additional £10,000 of cold weather funding this year, which has supported the current extended period of SWEP (Severe Weather Emergency Protocol).

The funding keeps the wheels turning on Thanet’s RISE team who scour the streets daily to offer help to those who need it and leaving calling cards at spots where no one is there but there is evidence of  rough sleeping.

The team has been at the forefront of offering a wide range of services since it was officially launched on October 10, 2018 – World  Homelessness Day.

It is spearheaded by Thanet District Council with Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust, the Forward Trust addiction support service, Thanet Winter Shelter, Salvation Army, Serveco, Paramount Independent Property Services and Citizens Advice Thanet.

Thanet Rise team 2019/20

Rise knits together all the services people might need, from alcohol, addiction and mental health support to advice on benefits, assistance getting a GP or a bank account and a pathway for getting into, and staying in, accommodation.

Since 2018 the team has helped to run the annual Thanet Winter Shelter– from November to March – providing food, beds and services to rough sleepers during that time period.

This year instead of multiple church venues the winter shelter is in one district building which has separate bedrooms and shower facilities and will be open for clients 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This is due to covid restrictions. It is being led by Ramsgate Salvation Army and shelter manager Lauren Oates.

The funding extension comes as part of extra government support announced by Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick on January 8.

A share of £10 million in funding is being given to all councils in England as they are asked to redouble their efforts to help accommodate all those currently sleeping rough and ensure they are swiftly registered with a GP, where they are not already.

This will ensure those who are homeless can be protected from the virus and contacted to receive vaccinations in line with the priority groups outlined by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.

Councils have been asked to reach out again to those who have previously refused help, given rising infection rates and the colder winter months.

Thanet council deputy leader Helen Whitehead, who has responsibility g=for housing, said: “I welcome this recognition of the fantastic work that RISE does in supporting those in need in our area, which emphasises the need for continuing and established funding in this area;

“I look forward to their achievements and exceptional multi agency work being recognised through long term funding security.”

Robert Jenrick

Robert Jenrick MP said: “At the start of this pandemic we made sure that the most vulnerable in society were protected. This winter, we are continuing in this vein and redoubling our efforts to help those most in need.

Our ongoing Everyone In initiative is widely regarded as one of the most successful of its kind in the world, ensuring 33,000 people are safe in accommodation. We are now going further and focusing on GP registration of rough sleepers.”

The council will work with local health partners to ensure those sleeping rough are able to access the COVID-19 vaccine. This will be done through a GP, or by other means if mainstream provision is unsuitable.

Photo Crisis

Jon Sparkes, Chief Executive of Crisis, said: “These renewed efforts to protect people who are homeless in the pandemic will save lives.

“It was truly a landmark moment when, back in March, everyone on the streets was offered somewhere safe to stay. It’s as important, if not more so, that today we see government leadership to protect all those sleeping rough. The highly infectious new strain of coronavirus alongside the cold weather makes this the most dangerous moment of the pandemic for those without a home.

“What is very welcome here is the two-pronged approach – a continued commitment to getting everyone into safe accommodation but also now making sure people are registered with a GP so they can quickly access the vaccines.

“We know through our services that people facing homelessness often are not registered with a doctor’s surgery. Addressing this issue will be a lifesaving intervention and a step towards ensuring people who are homeless are protected in the longer-term,”.

The government’s Everyone In campaign has nationally supported around 33,000 people with nearly 10,000 in emergency accommodation and over 23,000 already moved on into longer-term accommodation.

Contact RISE

Call 01843 577277 – or 01843 577000 in an emergency out of hours.

Email: [email protected]

Thanet council and RISE team help rough sleepers off the street during Covid pandemic