Our 2014 annual review of the sector looks at the capacity, support and services available to homeless people, as well as funding and changes to provision.
Services and support research
Based based on a survey of 459 agencies, with data from an additional 218 accommodation projects, our annual review of the sector identified a number of key changes taking place in 2013.
- There were 38,534 bed spaces for single homeless people in England, 1,104 fewer than 2012, a decrease of 3%.
- The number of accommodation projects in England for single homeless people also dropped by 3% to 1,271 compared to 2012.
- Since 2010 the overall number of accommodation services has fallen by 13%.
- 38% of accommodation projects saw their funding fall, while 8% saw an increase in funding. For day centres, nearly a third (31%) reported an increase in their funding this year, and a quarter (26%) reported a decrease.
- The main impact of funding decreases were on staff levels and support offered. 48% of projects with decreases in funding reduced their frontline staff, while 33% reported reducing the provision of meaningful activities.
- Only a minority of services reported funding cuts leading to fewer individuals being supported.
Help for those with complex problems
- Compared to 2012, more accommodation projects report not being able to support homeless people with the highest needs or the most challenging behaviour.
- 91% of accommodation projects refused access to people who were assessed as being too high a risk to other clients or staff, compared to 79% in 2012.
- 74% refused people whose needs were too high for the project to manage, up from 63% in 2012.
- Projects reported that, on average, 10% of their clients had achieved paid employment in 2013.
- On average 32% of people are ready to move on from hostels and supported accommodation but are unable to.
- Pressures on the housing market and limited supply of rental properties were cited as the main barrier, affecting two-thirds (66%) of projects.
- More homeless services report developing new ways to support and accommodate clients.
- 39% reported using personal budgets, while 6% of accommodation projects currently commissioned on a payment by results basis.
- 43% reported using private sector leasing schemes, while 34% reported adopting Housing First approach.
- Agencies report changes to benefits conditionality and the sanctions regime, Local Welfare Assistance, the Shared Accommodation rate and Local Housing Allowance all having a substantial impact.
- Benefit sanctions for homeless people were a concern in 69% of accommodation projects.
- 85% of accommodation projects had rent arrears from current clients, with 27% of clients in arrears on average.
More needs to be done
Although over a third of accommodation services have experienced funding cuts, this has not resulted in a drop in the numbers of people receiving support. While this might be attributed in part to the sector’s resilience and ability to respond to changing needs, it is important to consider the strain and pressures this is causing. Essential investment in services needs to be protected so that homeless charities are able to continue to meet demand for help with homelessness.
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Debra is research manager at Homeless Link, coordinating research into homelessness and across other areas of social exclusion.
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