On 15th December 2022, 34 of the country's leading homelessness organisations wrote to to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Grant Shapps, warning of the “devastating” impact of not extending the Government’s Energy Bill Relief Scheme (EBRS) beyond March 2023.
The letter was coordinated by the charity Homeless Link and is signed by 34 providers of homelessness services across England, including Shelter, Centrepoint, St Mungo’s and the National Housing Federation. You can read it in full below:
Dear Grant Shapps,
RE: Energy bill relief for homelessness services beyond March 23
We are writing to you together as 30 of the country’s leading homelessness organisations to stress the need for the Government to extend the Energy Bill Relief Scheme for homelessness services beyond the current end date of March 2023.
The homelessness sector provides essential support for many of those experiencing the most severe forms of poverty and deprivation in our communities, with the Government’s Energy Bill Relief Scheme critical in helping services across the country keep their doors open in the face of rising costs. These include, but are not limited to, accommodation providers who support people away from rough sleeping, day centres who provide food, warmth and support to anyone in need, outreach teams who proactively engage people sleeping rough and specialised services for women and non-UK nationals.
With no sign of national energy prices falling, services across the country are now growing increasingly concerned about the prospect of the EBRS support ending in just four months. Homeless Link, the national membership charity for frontline homelessness services, recently surveyed some of its members. On average, services predicted an 141% increase in their energy costs in 2023/24 if the Energy Bill Relief Scheme is not extended. This means services allocating an additional 3.4% of their annual budget to energy costs alone, without accounting for increases in other areas.
Homelessness services are predominately residential, with Homeless Link’s latest Annual Review of Support for Single Homeless People in England finding that services provide over 32,000 bed spaces for people experiencing homelessness. The vast majority of commissioned homelessness services have had no funding uplift to deal with inflation from their local authority, while many are reporting that donations are down on previous years. This means, they are already having to cut costs and scale back their support offer.
At the same time, homelessness services cannot pass the costs of rising energy bills onto the people who use their services in the same way a private business can as the people they support simply can’t afford the increase. For example, one accommodation provider who responded to Homeless Link’s survey is facing an energy bill rise from £50,000 a year in 2021 to £125,000 a year in 2023. This rise accounts for an additional 6% of their budget and is being met without any additional funding. A representative from the service said: “[Due to increased costs] we've already given notice on three 2-bedroom properties […] If prices continue to rise, we’ll be scaling down as a charity. This would mean evictions, anything up to 70 people being made [street] homeless.”
It is clear that failure to extend the EBRS would be devastating, with unsustainable costs forcing many homelessness organisations to scale back their work even further, and in some cases, forcing them to close their doors all together. This would mean fewer bed spaces and support options available for the increasing number of people experiencing homelessness, with consequences which would cost lives and continue to be felt for years down the line.
As we are sure you’re aware, the Government committed to ending rough sleeping in England by 2024. This target will be unachievable if people don’t have safe, trusted homelessness providers to turn to. Without continuing the EBRS scheme beyond March 2023, critical services which work with some of society's most vulnerable people will almost certainly have to close their doors.
Rick Henderson, CEO at Homeless Link
Polly Neate, CEO at Shelter
Dr Emma Haddad, CEO at St Mungo’s
Balbir Chatrik, Director of Policy & Communications at Centrepoint
Kate Henderson, CEO at the National Housing Federation
Ellie McNeil, Chief Executive at YMCA Together
Steve Benson, CEO at Two Saints
Amanda Dubarry, CEO at Your Place
David Smith, CEO at Oasis Community Housing
Mark Simms, CEO at P3 Charity
John Glenton, Executive Director of Care and Support at Riverside Housing Association
Dr Jan Sheldon, CEO at St Martins Housing Trust
Mike Barrett, Chief Executive at Porchlight
Jean Templeton, Chair of the West Midlands Homelessness Taskforce & CEO at St Basils
Stephen Bell OBE, Chief Executive at Changing Lives
Steve Rundell, CEO at Nomad Opening Doors Sheffield
Salma Ravat, Manager at One Roof Leicester
Fiona Humphrey, Chief Executive at Providence Row Housing Association
Lara Oyedele, President of the Chartered Institute for Housing
Jo Carter, Interim CEO at Glass Door
Lorraine Mealings, Chief Executive at BCHA
Natalie Allen, Chief Executive Officer at Sifa Fireside
Lawrence Santcross, CEO at Transform Housing & Support
Jodie Geddes, CEO at AMAT UK
Vanessa Hemmings, CEO at Harp Southend
Keely Dalfen, Director at The Brick
Joe Heeney, CEO at Resolve
Ben Richardson, Director at Caring in Bristol
Denise Kelly, CEO at Teardrops Supporting Your Community
Duncan Craig, CEO at Restore (York)
Derek Heath, CEO at Druglink
Jayni Gudka, CEO at Unseen Tours
Sharon Fear, Project Manager at Tabor House
Tim Fallon, CEO at SPEAR