Homeless Link welcomes Protect and Vaccinate funding for people facing homelessness
On 20 December 2021, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities announced a new Protect and Vaccinate scheme which will help to increase vaccine uptake among people who are homeless and sleeping rough, supporting those who are hesitant about getting their vital booster jabs and funding emergency accommodation to get people off the streets. The scheme will deliver mobile vaccinations where people are sleeping on the streets, supporting outreach work in shelters to educate people about the dangers of the virus, and giving money to councils to provide safe and secure accommodation while their level of vaccination is increased.
Rick Henderson, CEO at Homeless Link, welcome the announcement. He said:
“Throughout the pandemic We have been working as a trusted partner to government, ensuring that decisions are informed by the experiences of our 900 member organisations working on the front line.
“When people are rough sleeping they are extremely vulnerable to infection. In the first waves of the pandemic the Everyone In initiative saved lives. COVID-19 was responsible for the deaths of less than 2% of people experiencing homelessness during 2020 (as opposed to 12.1% of the general population) which showed that assertive action worked. We are very relieved that the government is now making funds available to ensure that in this new wave of infections, once again people experiencing homelessness will be brought into safe accommodation.
“We also know that people facing homelessness are much less likely to be vaccinated than people in the general population. They are therefore much more vulnerable to the Omicron variant. Many are not registered with GPs and don’t have access to mobile phones. Bringing people in to accommodation will increase the uptake of vaccinations. In addition our members, and their staff are often known and trusted by people who are otherwise very hard to reach and this in turn will also lead to higher vaccine uptake.
“Our members developed innovative ways of getting the vaccinations to people earlier this year and encouraging uptake. This included offering close aftercare support and making sure the vaccines are delivered in a familiar surroundings. We are very pleased that the Government is now supporting the sector to do this again to reach people with lifesaving booster jabs.
“Homeless Link and our members are already working with local authorities across the country to co-ordinate these efforts. And we will be doing everything we can in the days and weeks ahead to protect some of the most vulnerable people in our society.”