Tory Britain: Homelessness services crumbling

Tony Gosling tony at
Tue Mar 25 00:49:22 GMT 2014

Homelessness services on high alert as councils plan spending cuts
Huge cuts to homeless services saw rough sleeping 
double in Derby. This should be a warning to councils
    * Rick Henderson - 
Professional, Tuesday 4 March 2014 10.00 GMT
Rough sleeper

Rough sleeping in Derby doubled after an 82% cut 
to homelessness services. Photograph: Martin Godwin for the Guardian

Last week the government published its rough 
sleeping statistics for 2013, showing that the 
number of people sleeping on the streets on any 
one night in England has risen a further 5% to 
2,414. Given the financial climate this increase 
may seem modest, but we must remember that this 
is still over 2,000 people every night.

Furthermore, a detailed look at the figures 
paints a concerning and mixed picture at a time 
of increased financial pressures and changes to 
the welfare benefit system. With councils across 
England beginning to make important budget 
decisions for the coming years, this should 
provide a clear warning to those that fail to 
protect services for people who are homeless.

The first thing to say is that this overall 
increase is lower than in previous years. This is 
due to the sterling efforts of 
services to adapt and change the way they operate 
to ensure that people are not left out on the 
streets. It is also credit to local authorities 
who, despite having serious financial pressures, 
have recognised the value of these services in 
protecting the most vulnerable in the community.

In London for example, where No Second Night Out 
has been running longest, estimated rough 
sleeping numbers have reduced by 3% and Homeless 
Link's recent report shows how effective this 
approach is proving across England in getting 
people off the streets for good. However, this 
can only continue with the financial investment 
required to put the right services in place.

Getting people off the streets and supporting 
them towards long-term independence improves 
their chance of getting their lives back on track 
and reduces the risk of returning to 
homelessness. The benefits of this are 
far-reaching, not least in giving all people a 
fair opportunity to belong, and contribute, to their local community.

This view is well supported too. A poll we 
recently commissioned shows that 89% of the 
public agree that people experiencing 
homelessness should be given help to get their lives back on track.

However, alongside success there are stark 
warnings. Last year Derby city council began a 
two-year programme of making 82% cuts to its 
budget, with the first tranche of cuts going 
through between April and October last year. 
Interestingly, estimated rough sleeping numbers 
have almost doubled in the same period.

Similarly in Nottinghamshire, where two years ago 
the county council cut its supporting people 
budget by 65%, the estimated number of rough 
sleepers has risen to 48. The council is 
proposing further cuts of £3.2m, including to housing related support.

Oxfordshire county council recently approved 
plans to cut its housing support budget by 38%. 
This could potentially lead to the closure of one 
of the three hostels in the area, turning its 
already vulnerable residents out onto the streets.

Unfortunately, this threat is widely echoed 
across the country. A number of councils are 
proposing similar sized cuts to their budgets, 
which we would strongly urge them to reconsider.

Rough sleeping is damaging to both individuals 
and communities. In purely financial terms, the 
consequences of rough sleeping can be costly as 
vulnerable people's wellbeing deteriorates and 
they become ever more dependent on public services.

We understand that councils are in an unenviable 
position and have to make tough decisions, but 
these numbers should be a clear indicator that 
attempting to make savings through cuts to 
housing-related support is a false economy.

As councils begin to make their budget decisions, 
our message is clear: by protecting funding for 
services that help people leave homelessness 
behind, you are not just backing the potential of 
individuals who have found themselves homeless, 
but making an investment that makes long-term social and financial sense.

Rick Henderson is chief executive at <>Homeless Link
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