£1bn a year funding gap in homelessness services ‘a matter of life and death’

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Years of Government cuts to local authority funding have left vital homelessness services with a £1billion a year blackhole, leading charities have warned.

A major new report commissioned by St Mungos and Homeless Link calls on the UK Government to fix an ongoing funding shortfall in local homelessness prevention services.

The report, ‘Local Authority Spending on Homelessness’, by WPI Economics, finds that support for single homeless people in England has been slashed by more than half (53%) since 2008/09.

This means that councils in England are on average spending almost £1bn less a year on critical homelessness services compared to ten years ago.

In real-terms, more than £5bn less has been spent on front-line services over the last 9 years, while homelessness is on the rise and the number of people sleeping rough is 165% higher than in 2010.

Until 2009 the Supporting People programme, which had been funded by the Government, provided local authorities with ring-fenced funding to help prevent homelessness.

However, the subsequent removal of this ring-fence, along with the overall reduction in funding levels, has left homelessness services struggling to cope.

The charities warn that this is leaving vulnerable with nowhere to turn in their hour of need, with analysis from Homeless Link showing a 30% drop in the number of beds in homeless hostels and other forms of emergency shelter.

St Mungo’s and Homeless Link are now urging the Chancellor to use his upcoming Spending Review to invest an extra £1bn a year in homelessness services through a ring fenced grant to local authorities.

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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.

“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.”

Rick Henderson, Chief Executive of national membership body for the homelessness and supported housing sector, Homeless Link, added: “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.”