The Local authority spending on homelessness report, commissioned by St Mungo’s and Homeless Link, examines changes in local authority expenditure on homelessness-related services over the past decade and looks into the impacts that these changes have had on the ground. Homeless Link has produced a policy briefing based on the report.
Mind the gap: the £1bn hole in our efforts to end homelessness
Today’s rough sleeping statistics undoubtedly bring some good news - fewer people are on the streets on a typical night compared to a year ago. We have to take encouragement from this - there are signs that stronger political commitment and the investment from the Rough Sleepers Initiative can make a difference.
But behind this is the very troubling fact that the numbers are still 141% higher than ten years ago. Despite a decade of tireless efforts from our members and their partners across the country, we are still a long way from preventing people being let down by the systems and services set up to protect them and ending up on our streets in the first place.
Alongside the rough sleeping stats, today sees the publication of new research examining local authority spending on homelessness. The analysis, an update of research published last year, explores what has happened to spending since April 2018 to take into account the Homelessness Reduction Act and Rough Sleeping Strategy.
The findings show that despite recent funding announcements from Central Government targeting specific areas of homelessness, local authority expenditure on homelessness-related services is a fraction of the levels a decade ago. Spending on single homelessness has been even harder hit: in 2018/19 nearly £1bn less was spent on support services than in 2008/09 - a 40% reduction in real terms.
We know that the impact of this is felt across our membership and by the people using those services. Less resources, with no long term security, makes a strategic response difficult to provide. We might be getting better at helping people off the streets, but what comes next if there are no routes to more permanent homes and the support needed to keep them?
Today, the Prime Minister pledged an extra £236 million to go towards offering "Housing First style 'move on' accommodation" for up to 6,000 rough sleepers and those at immediate risk of rough sleeping, and announced that Dame Louise Casey will be undertaking a review in to rough sleeping.
This is a promising start but ending rough sleeping requires action beyond money, and it has to be a key part of a genuinely cross-departmental national strategy if we are going to be serious about the ambition to end it. The report on spending argues that local authorities must be equipped to provide services which can truly prevent homelessness as well as deal with it in crisis –this has to mean the full range of local prevention and support services, such as supported housing, outreach, tenancy support and activities aimed at enabling people to live independently in the long-term.
We are calling on the Government to use the 2020 Spending Review to commit an extra £1bn per year of revenue funding to local authorities to deliver a truly integrated homelessness strategy. We believe that unless we tackle this funding hole, we are not going to end rough sleeping by the end of this parliament.
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Rick is the CEO of Homeless Link and was appointed to that role in July 2012. He is a member of the government’s National Rough Sleeping Advisory Panel and the London Mayor’s Rough Sleeping Task Group.