Housing agencies disturbed by looming cuts

Vulnerable clients face a "disturbing picture" of cuts in housing benefit and supported housing services.

This is the scenario portrayed by the National...

Vulnerable clients face a “disturbing picture” of cuts in housing benefit and supported housing services.

This is the scenario portrayed by the National Housing Federation, Homeless Link and housing charity Sitra in a joint submission to the Treasury’s spending review, which will set public spending limits from 2011-15.

They warned that the proposed 10% cut in housing benefit from 2013 for people who have been on jobseeker’s allowance for a year will penalise those who need support and take longer to become work ready.

They also raised concerns about future cuts to Supporting People, which funds supported housing services for groups including people with mental health problems or learning disabilities, older people, the homeless and victims of domestic violence.

Supporting People has fallen in value every year since the programme began: in 2003-4 the total grant was £1.814bn and in 2009-10 £1.64bn. It is also no longer ringfenced, making it vulnerable to local cuts as seen on the Isle of Wight and in East Sussex.

The submission pointed out that while costs for service providers had risen, there had tended to be little or no inflationary uplift offered by administering local authorities.

Now it has warned that providers are considering whether they can continue to offer high-quality services while reducing contract prices.

The submission called on the government to halt future cuts to housing benefit until their implications had been fully considered and to maintain Supporting People funding at current levels between 2011 and 2015.

It said: “Local authorities may find that significant cuts in the volume and quality of services would be the only way they could deal with significant cuts in central government funding for services.”

It made the point that investment in housing-related support delivered significant economic benefits for the public purse.

Among other recommendations, the submission has called for investment to be maintained in the disabled facilities grant at £165m a year to enable disabled and older people to continue to live independently in their own home and reduce demand on health services.

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