Emergency beds during severe winter weather (SWEP)

Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP)

What is SWEP?

Our severe weather emergency protocol (SWEP) means that local homelessness agencies provide extra beds to people experiencing rough sleeping during severe winter weather.

SWEP is emergency accommodation for anyone - including people who have no right to claim benefits or housing in the UK, or who have previously refused offers of accommodation and support.

SWEP's primary purpose is to provide emergency shelter during severe winter weather.

We activate SWEP on every night when the Met Office forecasts the overnight temperature in Oxford will fall to zero or below.

We can also open emergency beds on a discretionary basis during other severe weather conditions – such as when there is snow on the ground, a sub-zero “feels like” forecast or a warmer night during a prolonged freezing spell.

We activate SWEP in consultation with the St Mungo's outreach and assessment service, OxSPOT, and in line with guidance from Homeless Link.

This winter Oxfordshire district councils have agreed to operate SWEP on a countywide basis. However discretion may be used to activate SWEP on a localised basis in circumstances where there is snow forecast in just one part of the county, or similar.

Activating SWEP

We decide whether to activate or extend SWEP for a particular night or period by 9:30 am on any day when it looks like SWEP needs to open, and notify housing providers delivering emergency beds of our decision.

A combination of agency staff and staff in existing settings are used to manage SWEP. Staff in local homelessness organisations step up from their regular duties to deal with emergency conditions – this is on top of their day jobs.

During the day, OxSPOT, district outreach and other local agencies work to ensure that everyone who may need to access SWEP is aware that it is open and understands how they can access the service. OxSPOT will allocate SWEP spaces to people and notify them where and when they need to go that night.