Nobody in modern Britain should ever have to sleep rough and all of us have a responsibility to help the most vulnerable people in our communities to get their lives back on track.
The key to ending rough sleeping once and for all is to tackle its root causes such as addiction, unemployment and ill health. I was therefore privileged to pay a visit to Maidstone Borough Council’s ground-breaking Rough Sleeping Initiative recently; who take exactly that approach. The small team, based at Marsham Street, are using £700,000 of Government funding to focus on providing the complex support required to assist rough sleepers in our town back into more sustainable accommodation.
This really is partnership working in action with national government funding and local government dedication and expertise combining to improve lives. The results in Maidstone have already been impressive with 133 individuals engaging with the service in its first year. Of those, 71 have been moved into more long-term accommodation and, perhaps most significantly, the number of rough sleepers in Maidstone has fallen from 48 in September 2018 to 5 in July 2019.
The effectiveness of this initiative speaks for itself and it is crucial that the team continue to receive the resources they need to carry out their life changing work. I have therefore been in touch with the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government to make clear how important the funding is and to make the case for additional funding being provided when the current grant expires in March next year.
I am pleased that in response the Government have commended the excellent work being undertaken by MBC and reaffirmed their commitment to increasing funding for tackling rough sleeping by 13% to £422 million in 2020/21. I will be keeping up the pressure to ensure that MBC’s team get their share of that additional funding so that they can continue their inspirational work.