‘Cut today, pay tomorrow,’ warns homeless charity

As homelessness rises across the country, plans to cut local funding of housing support services by up to 85% will damage lives and communities, Homeless Link warns.

Who is supporting people now? has been published today as Homeless Link’s CEO, Rick Henderson, calls on local authorities not to go ahead with disproportionate cuts to housing support services and homelessness budgets following a visit to services that could face closure if cuts of 85% are implemented in their community.

Some deep concerns have been highlighted by the report, which explores the impact of funding changes on local authorities, services and the people they support in seven communities in England. These include:

  • Further funding reductions threaten to push services over the edge into closure, leaving individuals without accommodation or support
  • Local authorities risk losing experienced commissioners who hold knowledge of local needs
  • Quality of services will be affected by lack of performance monitoring and poor pay for workers

Homeless Link’s analysis of homelessness statistics and the sector* has highlighted the impact funding cuts have had on the sector and local communities since 2009, when the ring-fence on funding to support vulnerable people was removed:

  • Service provision for homeless people has declined with the sector losing more than 4,000 bed spaces
  • The number of people seeking help has increased, with homeless applications 27% higher than they were three years ago
  • In a survey of services by the charity, communities who had their funding cut reported an increase in rough sleeping (52%), street drinking (41%), anti-social behaviour (48%) and crime (33%)

Homeless Link makes a number of recommendations in the report, including working with charities to protect critical support for homeless people. The charity has also published guidance to support commissioners with decisions, called Changing Structures in Commissioning for Housing Related Support.

Rick Henderson, Chief Executive for Homeless Link, the umbrella body for homelessness charities, says:

“It is clear that cuts to funding for housing and homelessness services are having a negative impact on people and communities, leaving many without a home.

“We recognise that local authorities and services must make difficult decisions at this time, but together we need to make sure that vulnerable people do not bear the brunt of these decisions.

“We need the local authority to recognise the value homelessness services give to their communities and make sure they do not pass on more disproportionate funding cuts to voluntary and community services than they take on themselves. Making rash, uninformed cuts now will only lead to the community and the public purse having to pay for these mistakes in the future.”

CASE STUDY: Keep Supporting Derby People

Rick Henderson visited homelessness services in Derby to meet local people that could lose their accommodation as part of local authority proposals to cut the budget for housing support services by 85% over three years.

The current budget that central government give to Derby to support vulnerable people is £9.1 million. The local authority is proposing to reduce the funding for housing support services to £3.2 million in 2013/14 and to £1.2 million in 2014/15. The local authority ran a consultation over the festive period and will meet on 16 January to decide on the outcome.

The Derby Hostel Liaison Group (HLG) has been running a local campaign, Keep Supporting Derby People, to raise awareness of their services and challenge the proposed cuts. In an open letter to their local MP, Chris Williamson, the group said:

“The HLG… have been working closely with the local authority… to prevent homelessness and reduce the negative impact it can have on vulnerable people in our community. Until now our services have been primarily funded by the Supporting People budget. More than 4,000 people in Derby receive support through this budget.

“We are keen on working together with Derby City Council on a strategic response to the proposed funding cuts to continue this work and reduce the impact it will have on vulnerable people in our city. It is imperative that we look at all options together to ensure we can mitigate the challenges faced by the clients we work with next year and beyond.”

Show your support: #keepsupportingderbypeople

Recommendations

Who is supporting people now? makes a number of recommendations for local authorities and services to ensure that vulnerable people do not have to pay the price of funding cuts. These include:

  • Local authorities must involve services in financial decision-making so they have time to make sensible business decisions that reduce the impact on local people
  • Support workers and housing staff need to be appropriately skilled, trained and supported to work with the most vulnerable clients
  • Local authorities must continue monitoring services to maintain quality and ensure they deliver value for money
  • Services must take the lead on collecting evidence of client needs to inform local authorities’ future service plans
  • Homeless people’s needs are diverse and services must engage with other potential funding sources such as public health, criminal justice, NHS Trusts and substance use services
  • The Government needs to recognise the value homelessness services have to local communities

Notes

Government guidance: In 2011 the Department for Communities and Local Government introduced Best Value Guidance for local authorities to follow when making funding decisions. The guidance has statutory force and sets out clear expectations of the way that local authorities should act, including:

  • At least three months’ notice to be given to an organisation and service users when funding is to be withdrawn or reduced
  • A local authority should actively engage the organisation and service users as early as possible before making a decision on the future of the service
  • Authorities should seek to avoid passing on disproportionate reductions – i.e. they should not make larger reductions to the voluntary and community sector than they take on themselves

*SOURCE OF STATISTICS

• 4,000 beds for homeless people have been lost since funding ring-fence removed in 2009 (Homeless Link, Projects and beds report November 2012: Analysis of data from Homeless UK, p.4, http://homeless.org.uk/sites/default/files/HUK%20End%20of%20year%20analysis%20FINAL.pdf).
• Homeless applications in England in Q3 2009 were 22,950 compared with 29,130 in the same quarter in 2012 – a rise of 27% (Department for Communities and Local Government, Statutory Homelessness in England). 
• Nearly half of homeless services in a recent survey reported having their funding cut this financial year, by an average of 17% (Homeless Link, Survey of Needs and Provision 2013, forthcoming).
• In a survey of services by Homeless Link, communities who had their funding cut reported an increase in rough sleeping (52%), street drinking (41%), anti-social behaviour (48%) and crime (33%) (Homeless Link, Survey of Needs and Provision 2012, p. 32, http://homeless.org.uk/sites/default/files/SNAP2012%20fullreport.pdf)