Richmondshire District Council

Help for the homeless during severe weather

As part of our duties as a local authority, Richmondshire District Council will ensure that people who are sleeping rough will be protected and provided for during the winter /other seasons, when extreme cold temperatures for extended periods of time can threaten their life, health and wellbeing.

This page sets out the how rough sleepers within the Richmondshire District can access accommodation and support during periods of exceptionally cold weather when our Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP) is activated.

The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) advise that SWEPs should be activated by a weather forecast predicting three continuous nights, or more, of a temperature of zero degrees Celsius or lower.

Richmondshire District Council is the organisation responsible for co-ordinating SWEP.

Our aims 

Our aim is to prevent loss of life or significant harm to health during extreme cold weather periods.

We also aim to reduce rough sleeping to zero where ever possible by:

  • The use of SWEP to work with rough sleepers with a local connection who would normally be resistant to coming inside/or be prepared to sleep outdoors or in places with no basic utilities

  • The use of SWEP to engage rough sleepers who do not have a local connection to Richmondshire District and to work with them to relocate the person back to their area of local connection

Activation/deactivation of SWEP

The Housing Options team will be responsible for checking the five day forecast every day before 10 am during winter (and including other seasons where it is exceptionally cold). Our measurement for SWEP must be taken from the BBC weather website (which is directly informed by the MET Office).

The Housing Options team are responsible for making the decision to activate and deactivate SWEP. Once a decision has been taken to activate SWEP, it will stand until the following day’s check. The service will be reviewed on a daily basis with a commitment made every morning to continue its operation for further nights, based on a continued cold weather forecast.

SWEP will normally be deactivated when a forecast predicts two or more continuous nights where the temperature is at least one degree Celsius. We will ensure that any person refusing, or that disengages with the provision of accommodation under SWEP will be subject to a safeguarding adult alert and referral.

Who are rough sleepers?

Examples of rough sleepers include:

  • People sleeping in the open air
  • People about to bed down (sitting on/in or standing next to their bedding) in the open air
  • People actually bedded down (such as on the streets, in tents, doorways, parks, bus shelters)
  • People in buildings or other places not designed for living in (such as sheds, cars, stairwells, barns, car parks, derelict boats, etc)

What provision will be made for rough sleepers?

Our Housing Options team will assess individual need and provide appropriate accommodation until:

  • the severe weather ends or
  • where a person has found other appropriate accommodation, whichever happens first

In all cases our Housing Options team will take into account the needs of the individual and will contact other agencies if required, such as mental health services, police or probation officers when considering the type of provision and support required.

People who cannot get help with housing and benefits

There are no statutory duties upon the District Council to provide for this group. However, based upon current Government guidance, similar to all other local authorities, Richmondshire District Council has the general power to provide emergency accommodation for people who have ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ (who cannot get help with housing and benefits in the UK).

Whilst accommodation may be provided on public health grounds given the pandemic, Richmondshire District Council will offer advice and assistance to individuals. We will also establish whether a person(s) can be referred to social services or be directed to the Home Office for advice and assistance in respect of their status in the UK.

How often is SWEP reviewed?

We will review our severe weather emergency protocol (SWEP) every year.

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