Homelessness charities urge government to fix £1bn funding gap

Photo by Graf Spee

Single homeless people are getting less access to local services as government cuts have caused a funding gap of over £1bn a year, a new study says.

Research commissioned by the homelessness charities Homeless Link and St. Mungo’s found that cuts to council budgets are leaving growing numbers of people at risk on England’s streets.

The charities have warned that the government risks missing its target of ending rough sleeping by 2027 unless it acts now to make up the shortfall.

Rick Henderson, chief executive of Homeless Link, said: ‘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.’

According to the report Local Authority Spending on Homelessness, written by WPI Economics, spending by councils on support for single homeless people in England fell by 53% between 2008-9 and 2017-18.

That means that local authorities are now spending almost £1bn less a year on these services compared to ten years ago, amounting to a total over £5bn less spent in the last nine years than if funding had continued at 2008-09 levels, it found.

Homelessness has risen dramatically in England over the last decade, while single homeless people and couples without children are the groups most liable to be forced to sleeping rough as they are least likely to have a legal right to be housed.

Certain government cuts have hit these groups more than most, as the charities have highlighted the removal of ringfenced funding for local authorities for homelessness services and a reduction in the levels of housing-related support funding.

These cuts have led to a worrying reduction in early intervention services such as family meditation and tenancy sustainment, as well as a 30% fall in bed spaces for single homeless people since 2008, the charities found.

They said that while the government’s Rough Sleeping Strategy has provided welcome additional funding for homelessness services, it falls way short of making up for the shortfall.

Howard Sinclair, Chief Executive of St Mungo’s, said the ‘shocking’ 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,’ Sinclair said.

‘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.’

St. Mungos and Homeless Link have called on the government to use its upcoming Spending Review to invest an extra £1bn in homelessness services with ringfenced grants for local authorities.

The charities’ research follows a New Policy Institute report last year which found that councils are being forced to cut homelessness services to meet rising costs.

Chris Ogden
Digital News Reporter


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