Poverty and Inequality

24.04.19

Councils face £1bn-a-year funding gap for single homelessness as charities give government ‘wake-up call’

Local authorities in England have more than halved their spending on single homeless people since 2008 spending and are spending £1bn less a year, major research from homeless charities have found.

St Mungo’s and Homeless Link said that with the number of people sleeping rough is 165% higher than it was in 2010, the report should be a “wake-up call” – or the government could face missing its target of ending rough sleeping by 2027.

The report, ‘Local Authority Spending on Homelessness’, shows that support services for single homeless people in England have lost £5bn overall since 2009, and council spending has fallen 53% between 2008-9 and 2017-18.

The charities are warning that cuts to council budgets are leaving increasing numbers of people at risk on the streets, and have called for the government to provide a ring-fenced grant to local authorities in the Spending Review to replace the Supporting People programme.

Rick Henderson, chief executive 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.

“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.”

Single people and couples without children are the least likely to have a legal right to be housed by their council, and therefore are the most likely to end up sleeping on the streets.

The researchers asked councils and service providers about the impact of cuts and found a worrying reduction in services aimed at preventing homelessness such as family mediation and tenancy sustainment.

They said without early intervention services, people are being forced into homelessness and can only receive support after reaching crisis point – and have called on the government to redress the shortfall by investing an extra £1bn a year.

Whilst St Mungo’s and Homeless Link said the government’s rough sleeping strategy has provided welcome additional funding for homelessness services, it falls far short of replacing the lost funding identified in the research.

Howard Sinclair, chief executive of St Mungo’s, 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. The human cost of these cuts is all too real.”

Image credit - wcjohnston

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