Cuts to homelessness support causing wider community strife

Homeless people are losing access to vital support because most services are facing cuts, a survey by umbrella body Homeless Link has found.

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Homeless people are losing access to vital support because most services are facing cuts, a survey by umbrella body Homeless Link has found.

Agencies are reporting reduced access to substance misuse and mental health services, accommodation and work, while cuts are also driving increased antisocial behaviour, crime and street drinking.

The survey of more than 200 homelessness services in England assessed the impact that local government funding cuts were having on the sector. It found that 57% had seen their funding fall in 2011, while 48% expected further cuts this year.

Of the services surveyed:

● 62% said fewer homeless people were moving on from hostels into accommodation.

● 74% said fewer homeless people were moving into jobs.

● 70% said fewer homeless people were accessing training services.

● 45% said fewer homeless people could access help with drug, alcohol and mental health problems.

Homeless Link said the cuts were also affecting local communities: 57% of charities reported more street drinking, 46% more crime and 58% more antisocial behaviour in some areas.

“Protecting services for homeless people is plain common sense,” said chief executive Jenny Edwards. “The more time someone spends on the street, the more their problems multiply.

“If someone without a home, job or hope is denied help to get back on their feet we all end up paying with more crime, ill-health and antisocial behaviour. It is time for every area to invest in a better future for homeless people and our communities.”

Eight in 10 charities said they had been forced to rely on volunteers, while some said they had closed projects, reduced the support given to people to let them live independently in the community or limited the help available to clients with the least complex problems as they tried to protect other services.

This adds to Homeless Link’s annual SNAP study (Survey of Needs and Provision) of 500 hostels and accommodation projects earlier this year, which showed that income in half had fallen, while 11% had reduced their services.

The new research also showed that, although 21% of councils had disproportionately cut the Supporting People budget that helps to fund many homelessness services, most had tried to protect funding for housing-related support.

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