Branch Secretary :

Rough sleeping cuts: agencies should work with Unite

Spending on rough sleeping halved since 2010


Spending on single homeless people has more than halved since 2010 while rough sleeping has risen by 165% since 2010.  No one should be surprised that deaths of homeless people have risen by 24% over the last four years.  These figures illustrate the real impact of austerity policies and local authority cuts.



In 2017/18 £1billion less was spent on single homelessness services than ten years before.  New research from WPI economics confirms the shocking experience of Unite members working with single homeless people.  The research was commissioned by St Mungos and Homeless link who make a number of recommendations – starting with a reversal of the cuts - which Unite and homelessness workers have been making for years.


Increase the supply of social housing


The agencies call for an extra £1 billion per year to be spent on preventing homelessness and ending rough sleeping; for ‘certain and sustainable funding’ – Unite has campaigned against ‘payment by results and other uncertain funding streams which divert resources away from improving services; ring fenced funding and an increase in the supply of social housing available for resettling homeless people.  We would add that this needs to be linked to an overall increase in the supply of social housing.  Currently ‘right to buy, sales and tenure change by housing associations and lack of grant funding mean that the overall supply of social housing is in decline.



As we have previously reported the cuts have meant a 30% fall in the number of bed spaces in accommodation projects for homeless people.  The impact has been hardest for the most vulnerable groups; only 7% of projects were women only in 2017, down from 13% in 2013 for example.


Support councilors taking stand against cuts


We also support councillors who take a stand against cuts and have expressed solidarity with Enfield North Labour party who have called on councils to set ‘no cuts’ budgets.  In Enfield councillor Tolga Aramaz refused to vote for cuts which would mean further devastation and has called for a mass campaign against cuts.


Members welcomed the report but expressed concern at the role of senior management in the sector.  A member, who works with rough sleepers in central London commented,


This research and the call to reverse cuts are exactly what homelessness agencies should be doing.  But unfortunately some are also moving to deskill services and attack the pay and conditions of their staff.  As well as putting unacceptable strain on workers, who are certainly not well paid, this undermines the all important quality of service for a truly vulnerable group of service users.  Competing with each other in a competitive race to the bottom to provide the cheapest service may help the careers of senior executives but does nothing for homeless people.


Members also report that increases in workploads make life impossible in the sector and a culture where disciplinary action by management is the first resort undermines morale.  Front line managers complain that HR departments push them in to inapropriate disciplinary action and lack understanding of the pressures of front line work.


Unite: withdraw threats to pay and conditions


While Suzanne Muna, branch secretary and Unite Executive Council members said,


We hope homelessness agencies will consider responding positively to our repeated appeals to establish clear sector standards and work with us to demand proper funding for homelessness services. They should withdraw threats to staff pay and conditions and join us in fighting for the service homeless people need.


The report exposes the limitations of repeated government announcements giving the impression of action but failing to clearly commit new money.


Unite is campaigning to establish agreed sector standards as part of an agreement with management in housing and support - see here


Paul Kershaw, Chair Unite Housing Workers branch 24 April 2019


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