Government cuts leave £1bn funding hole in homelessness services

sleeping rough

A rather enormous £1 billion funding hole is putting single homeless people at risk, new research has warned.

The government’s widespread and ruthless cuts to the budgets of local councils over the last nine years have left their services in tatters, according to homelessness charities St Mungo’s and Homeless Link.

And if the government wants to hit its dream target of ending rough sleeping by 2017, it’d better act now and fill the funding hole, the charities have said.

Produced by WPI Economics, the report – Local Authority Spending on Homelessness – shows English councils’ spend for supporting single homeless people dropped by a huge 53% between 2008-9 and 2017-18 – nearly £1bn less than 10 years ago.

St Mungo’s CEO Howard Sinclair isn’t best pleased, as you can imagine. He said: ‘This shocking billion pound a year funding gap must be a wake-up call for the Government.

‘Councils have a crucial role to play in preventing and reducing homelessness and rough sleeping, but years of cuts have left them struggling to tackle rising homelessness with fewer and fewer resources. If the Government does not act to restore funding to previous levels, it is likely to miss its target of ending rough sleeping by 2027.

‘The human cost of these cuts is all too real. The people we work with – many struggling with poor mental health, substance use or domestic violence – are often being left with no option but to sleep rough. With nearly 600 people dying on our streets or while homeless in a year, this really is a matter of life and death.

‘The Government must use this year’s Spending Review to put the money back and to turn the tide of rising homelessness. It can only do this by committing to a programme of guaranteed, long-term funding, so that everyone can find and keep a home for good.’

According to St Mungo’s and Homeless Link, single people and couples without children are most likely to end up living on the streets as they’re the least likely to have a legal right to council housing – therefore supporting them is crucial, the charities say.

Up until 2009, the government-funded Supporting People programme gave councils ring-fenced cash to help people avoid becoming homeless. However, the present regime saw fit to remove the ring-fence, naturally, which has had a devastating impact on people struggling to stay off the streets.

Rick Henderson, CEO of Homeless Link, said: ‘There are too many people sleeping rough and facing homelessness in this country – we can see it every day on our streets and it is unacceptable.

‘Local authorities have a key role in supporting people who are homeless, or at risk of homelessness, but they can only do so if they have enough money to fund services properly.

‘Guaranteed and long-term funding for councils to prevent and resolve homelessness would be a game changer. It would allow for focused, joined-up, strategic commissioning of services that truly work. The Government have a chance to do this in the upcoming Spending Review and we urge them to do so.

‘This, alongside building more genuinely affordable homes and creating a robust welfare system that adequately supports people and stops them from being locked in poverty, should be an essential part of their plan to end rough sleeping. It’s only right that people have a place to call home and the support they need to keep it.’

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