I recently met with a large homelessness organisation to discuss how the cost-of-living crisis was affecting their work. They didn’t mince their words, describing their management accounts as ‘like a blood bath’, with red everywhere. While they don’t anticipate having to close down any services, they did say they were fearful of needing to scale back in places and are increasingly walking away from tender opportunities due to budgets being too small. At the same time their residents are struggling to pay their bills and the number of people who need their services is increasing.
Unfortunately, it’s clear that homelessness organisations across the country are facing similar problems. In a recent poll of our members, receiving 77 responses, we found that 86% of respondents agreed they are seeing an increase in people experiencing homelessness due to the cost-of-living crisis, while 92% agreed they’re worried the rising cost of living will affect their ability to maintain service and support standards. Most worryingly of all, over one in four said rising costs risks service closures down the line.
The Government announced the latest funding package for homelessness in the last spending review in October 2021, when inflation was at just over 4%. Since then, it has more than doubled, rising to over 10% in July. Clearly the funding announced last year no longer relates to the current climate services are having to operate in. But on 3rd October, the previous Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng said on the Today Programme on BBC Radio 4 that the Government does not plan to uplift the previously allocated budgets.
At Homeless Link, we believe this is the wrong decision which will lead to homelessness services becoming more stretched and an almost certain rise in homelessness and rough sleeping across the country. The new Chancellor Jeremy Hunt now plans to announce the Government's ‘Medium-Term Fiscal Plan’ on October 31st. In the run up to this announcement, we are calling on our members to write to their local MP, raising awareness of the issues they’re facing and asking the MP in question to write to the new Chancellor to request the Government reverses this decision, requesting a funding uplift for homelessness services. We have seen recently that no Government decision is set in stone and we hope that if homeless services from all parts of the country get in touch with their MP, it will create enough noise that the Government can’t ignore it.
If you aren’t sure how to write to your MP, or even who they are, don’t fear. We’ve put together a handy toolkit with all the information you’ll need, including a template letter you can use. But remember, MPs want to hear about what is going on within their constituency, so the more localised you can make your letter the better. Of course, we are also happy to provide support so please don’t hesitate to get in touch, and let us know how you get on.
Even if we don’t get the funding settlement we want, showing that services across England are experiencing similar issues and asking for the same solution, will at the very least keep homelessness in the Government’s agenda in the run up to November’s announcement. At the same time, it’s a great opportunity to build a closer relationship with your local MP, meaning we can work together to continue to influence beyond November.