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Housing support cuts lead to increased rough sleeping

St Mungo’s report produced in response to government strategy

 

Rough sleeping is on the rise because of austerity and specifically because of cuts in housing services.  Jack Jeffrey, a branch member working with rough sleepers, looks at the figures below. Unfortunately, St Mungos continue to operate much like a commercial contractor driving down costs and seeking to undermine staff terms and conditions.  We appeal to them to join with Unite in opposing cuts to services for rough sleepers.  The branch supports the call for local councils to set ‘no cuts’ budgets and build a mass campaign in defence of vital services.  As we have reported, the misnamed homelessness reduction act remains unfunded.

 

Toxic effect

 

A report by St Mungo’s in response to the governments rough sleeping strategy reveals the extent of the cuts in specialist housing support services and the effect this is having on the support vulnerable. 

 

 

Anyone working in the housing and homelessness sector know the feeling in your stomach when you recognise a client’s name and the thought runs through your head ‘I only housed them last year’. They will also have noticed a major cause of this is the year on year reduction in floating support services and the toxic effect this is having on some of the most vulnerable in our society. A new report by St Mungo’s has unsurprisingly confirmed that the collapse in funding for specialist housing support has led to a record rise in rough sleepers and a less reported but equally damaging rise in former rough sleepers returning to the street. 

 

 

Housing support funding has fallen by 69%

 

 

The report reveals the brutal array of cuts that have fallen on homelessness services with funding for housing related support services has fallen by 69% since 2010 compared with a 46% fall in housing services. The statistics reveal these cuts have also often been concentrated in urban areas with the most need. For example, services as a whole have faced an 18% reduction in funding in the last five years, London boroughs have faced cuts of 41% since 2013/14. As part of this funding for specialist floating support services has been hit the hardest. While generic non-specific housing support services has seen a 5% funding increase between 2013/14 and 2017/18, according to the FOIA responses, specialist services were on the end of harsh cuts: 41% for substance misuse services; 46% for mental health initiatives; and 88% for ex-offender services.  

 

Short sighted

 

This short sighted policy creates a circle of homelessness whereby clients are stabilised and placed in accommodation but lack the necessary support to sustain their place and lapse back into homelessness. Recent statistic on CHAIN the database showed a 27% rise in those who had been off the streets for 12 months or more falling back into rough sleeping 

 

 

To make matters worse the report reveals the decreasing number of social housing lets offered to single homeless people. The statistics show the number of new social housing lets to single homeless people dramatically fell from 19,000 to 13,000. This creates a bottleneck in hostels and forcing vulnerable people into insecure often low quality private rented housing.  This reveals the scale of the problem and the impact of successive years of brutal cuts to housing support by both national and local government.  

 

 

Statistics expose Tory claims on rough sleeping

 

 

These statistics expose the Tory claims in their recent rough sleeping strategy to end homelessness by 2027 for what they really are. This is no surprise from consecutive Conservative governments that have imposed deep cuts in welfare and services and witnessed a 169% rise in homeless since 2010. It is hard to understand how the government hopes to reduce homelessness and succeed with the pilots for its housing first model, unless the cuts to floating support since 2010 are reversed and combined with significant new funding pledges. 

 

 

Fortunately, this doesn’t depend solely on the Conservative government. Spending on housing and the majority of support services actually fall under the jurisdiction of local government. This means that the many Labour councils and mayors such as Sadiq Khan and Andy Burnham don’t have to wait for the fall of the Conservative government to start to take much needed action. They could be bold and refuse to pass down the cuts handed out by national government and agree to reintroduce the ringfence on supported housing funding was abolished in 2009.  

 

No cuts

 

This would not only provide the much-needed support for some of the most vulnerable in society but crucially in the medium to long term would actually end up saving money for local authorities and wider society. The 2018 PWC audit of Crisis’s strategy to eliminate rough sleeping reveals for each £1 spent on floating support to help those at risk of homelessness to maintain their tenancies approximately £2.7 of savings are generated and that the majority of these (50%) are collected by local authorities. Although I have little faith in the Conservative’s to change, I hope that Labour local authorities read this report and use the opportunity to act bravely and prove the economic and social value of supporting some of the most vulnerable in our society.

 

 

Jack Jeffrey (homelessness worker) 18th February 2019

 

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