Camden sets action plan after investigation into UCH rough sleeper operation
- Camden Council commits to learning from homeless dispersal operation and sets out an action plan to improve support for people sleeping rough in the borough
- The Council will review its services, processes, and relationships with partners to make sure interactions with rough sleepers are as compassionate and supportive as possible
A Camden Council report published today (8 December), following a Section 35 Dispersal Order operation which took place on 10th November 2023, sets out an action plan to make sure our services are always providing a compassionate and supportive response to rough sleepers.
As a result of the report, Camden Council will establish a new protocol around Section 35 Dispersal Orders, as well as creating a new homelessness forum to make sure the voice of rough sleepers and voluntary sector partners shape the future of the service.
What happened on 10th November was unacceptable – the investigation report acknowledges this and we are sorry for the distress caused to those affected. This is not the way we want to do things in Camden and I want to be clear that from this day on our approach will change.
Since this dispersal order was carried out, I have been determined that this organisation, and our partners, should learn from what happened to ensure a compassionate service is always provided to some of the most vulnerable people in our society. That’s why I called for this investigation and I’m now confident that we are moving in the right direction.
We have had the opportunity to reflect and learn. The report sets out a series of immediate, short- and longer-term actions which aim to provide quick changes, while also focusing on the long term delivery and success of a service that we know helps people in need.
I feel strongly that it is also important that other organisations and partners in our borough learn from this experience. We will work with them to make sure compassion is at the top of the list of priorities in Camden.
We are also facing a lack of Government support in this area. So many of the people on our streets have no recourse to public funds and nowhere to turn. They are victims of a broken housing market and a broken asylum system. We will continue to be a voice for those who are abandoned by our Government and we want our partners to join us in this.
Camden can, and will, be a place where everyone matters.
Since the operation Camden’s Routes of the Streets team (RTS) have been taking steps to contact all those who were moved on to help them find accommodation and other support services.
Camden residents can help by always informing outreach teams when someone is seen sleeping on the streets so support can be offered - emailing [email protected] or calling or calling 0808 800 0005.
Camden’s action plan
- The council will not attend evictions with the police and other third parties other than to ensure humanitarian services are provided to those sleeping on the streets. This will not occur without senior officer approval and member approval, and only in exceptional circumstances where there is a danger to people’s safety and as a last resort. Where the Council takes possession of any belongings these will be stored for a period of time to enable people to retain access to them.
- We will ensure that all staff involved in the rough sleeping service receives trauma-informed training and that this is refreshed on a regular basis.
- The Council should reconvene the Homelessness Partnership Forum of those organisations in the borough working with rough sleepers.
Short-Term Actions – within 3 Months
- Whilst the immediate action is in place, there is a gap around the policy and procedures within the Council relating to how to handle requests for support from the Police and partners with dispersals in the long term. In particular, in the case examined here, the operation with was not raised with senior officers because of a practice of collaborative working with the Police on wider enforcement. The Council should review its approach to agreeing support for Police operations, particularly where they involve vulnerable or excluded communities and establish a protocol to be agreed by members.
- The Council should review the escalation processes for those teams involved in the incident (Routes off the Street, Community Safety, Community Presence) so that where dispersal or enforcement incidents are flagged, they are raised to the awareness of senior officers and relevant Cabinet and ward members.
Longer Term Actions – within 6-12 months
- The Council should review its approach to joint and partnership working with community groups working with unhoused people in the Borough to expand joint working around rough sleeper verification, outreach and proactive support to people with multiple support needs.
- The Council should review the whole of its rough sleepers service. This review should include ensuring the service has the appropriate policies, procedures and resources to respond well and in an empathetic way to an increasing rise of rough sleeping while ensuring services meet the needs of a diverse group of people and make the most of the strong community willingness to help and support rough sleepers. This review will be led by Jess McGregor the Executive Director Adults and Health.
The full investigation report is available here.