Andy Kirk, Access to Housing Strategic Policy Officer at City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council, shares his insights and experience of working with Covid Testing Network to provide PCR tests to support rough sleepers.
What was the objective for providing PCR testing?
The Governments “Everyone In” programme instructed Local Authorities to support all rough sleepers off the street and into emergency accommodation during the Covid-19 pandemic. The resulting exit strategy (once lockdown measures eased) has been to support those placed under the programme with securing longer term move on accommodation.
Due to many of the supported accommodation providers having shared facilities, there was concern that there was a health risk placing new and untested residents into this environment. The issue was that existing testing centres were not providing asymptomatic testing.
What was the risk to the council of not implementing a testing programme?
Supported accommodation providers were not offering accommodation to rough sleepers placed under the Everyone In programme until they were tested for Covid-19. This was preventing us from achieving positive move on outcomes for some rough sleepers and creating an increasing backlog in emergency accommodation at great expense to the council.
What has been the response from those being tested?
Despite the often chaotic nature of the cohort, the majority consented to having the test and understood the safety concerns expressed by accommodation providers. In turn the providers were assured that those accepting offers of move on accommodation were not testing positive for Covid-19.
Why did you choose Covid Testing Network rather than another provider?
The asymptomatic element of their testing, they were also recommended by another council department.
What has been your experience of working with the Covid Testing Network team?
Fantastic! The development of the pilot study was easy, they discussed what was required over the phone and within days a full written plan was received. They also supported me with further negotiations with our Public Health department and were always on call as and when required. The testing itself was simple and efficient. Each batch of tests was collected at the time specified and the results were received the following day.