Severe Weather Emergency Accommodation Provision

Helping rough sleepers during bad weather

East Cambs District Council and our partner agencies are committed to doing all we can to protect the health and ensure the wellbeing of rough sleepers during periods of severe weather.

Our arrangements are designed to make sure that when the weather gets bad, there will be a warm safe place available at night for anyone who would otherwise have to sleep out.

If you are street homeless or know someone who will be facing sleeping on the streets during severe weather, call us on 01353 665555 (07710 978900 out of hours).

What assistance is provided under the protocol?

In normal circumstances severe weather provision operates from the beginning of November until the end of March. This does not mean the provision is made continuously for this period, instead, if certain weather conditions occur during these months, then the scheme described here will come into force until the weather conditions cease.

Under the scheme, anyone who would otherwise have to sleep in the open will be offered emergency accommodation. The SWEP provision is provided in partnership with the Lighthouse Centre.

The principal objective is to get people in from the cold or wet. However, while there will be no conditionality about severe weather support for non-locals (other than an acceptable level of behaviour), the emphasis will be on connecting them to support available in their local area, through signposting to other support agencies, the issuing of travel warrants etc. Such individuals, and the agencies, local authorities and support groups assisting them will be expected to cooperate fully with this. Only in this way can we keep the size and expense of local provision within reasonable bounds while being fair to everyone.

What is severe weather?

Most authorities, including East Cambs, set the basic trigger for opening emergency provision as being any period when the Met Office forecasts a temperature low of zero or under for three successive days.

How will the severe weather provision be initiated?

The Council's Housing and Community Advice manager (or someone delegated by that officer) will monitor the Met Office weather forecase throughout the severe weather period and will be responsible for making the decision to open and close provision, consulting with partner agencies (such as the Lighthouse) where necessary.

The decision to open will be made 48 hours before provision starts. This means, for example, that a decision to open on a Thursday evening will be made no later than 5:00pm on the preceding Monday. This will ensure that agencies have a good chance to get the word out to all rough sleepers and also ensure that accommodation providers have ample time to prepare to take people in.

Once the decision to open provision has been made, the minimum period it will run will usually be three nights. The exeption will be those rare occasions when a short but intense bout of bad weather (like a storm) is predicted and it makes sense to get people under cover if only for a night.

Any period of provision which includes a Friday night will normally be allowed to roll over to include the Saturday and Sunday nights, avoiding the risk associated with returning people to the streets over a weekend when other homlessness and welfare services are at reduced capacity. Additionally, when severe weather is forecast for any Saturday or Sunday, where possible SWEP will start on the Friday evening. These measures will make planning easier.

How will SWEP decisions be communicated?

When a decision has been made to open SWEP, the Council's Housing and Community Advice Team manager will:

  • Contact the Lighthouse's SWEP team leader to confirm that SWEP will open
  • Send an email to all partner agencies to confirm the arrangement
  • Contact the Council's press team so that the decision can be communicated on the Council's social media accounts

What happens when the severe weather goes on for longer than three days?

If severe weather continues for longer than the initial three nights, it will be renewed on a day-by-day basis. The Council will inform agencies of the decision to continue or end provision with at least 48 hours notice.