Charities urge reversal of funding cut for homeless services

Homelessness charities are urging pan-capital organisation London Councils to reverse its decision to end funding for 28 services for single homeless people.

Last minute lobbying is taking place with even London mayor Boris Johnson urging a reversal of the decision.

Last week, London Councils’ grant committee decided to continue funding only five of the 33 services for single homeless people that it currently supports, from April 2011, though one of these will face budget cuts. The plan would save £3.2m a year.

Funds for the other services would be repatriated to the 33 London boroughs, which collectively fund London Councils’ grants.

However, homeless charities say some organisations now face an uncertain future with some boroughs already proposing cuts of 25-40% to the homelessness services they already fund.

The last chance for a rethink will be on 14 December when the leaders’ committee of London Councils meets.

Thames Reach is at risk of losing more than £300,000 for two services across London, including the London Street Rescue service.

Despite its work in 32 London boroughs this has been designated as “essentially local” in nature.

“These are priority services at a time when the flow onto the streets from the recession has increased by 20% over the last three months,” said Jenny Edwards, chief executive of Homeless Link, the national network representing London’s frontline homelessness charities.

“This is the worst time to threaten the future of services that are helping London’s most vulnerable people keep away from a life without shelter at great risk to their health and even life.”

A Thames Reach spokesperson said: “The often transient nature of many rough sleepers’ lives means it is sensible to fund services like the London Street Rescue service on a pan London basis. We understand the pressures on funding but this service offers exceptional value for money.”

Shelter faces losing funding for Shelterline, which provides housing advice and information.

Chief executive Campbell Robb said: “At a time when London Councils itself predicts that up to 82,000 households could lose their homes as a result of changes to housing benefit, pan-London advice and support services will be absolutely critical in responding to people’s needs as they move across the city in search of an affordable place to live.”

London Councils said the committee’s recommendations included that boroughs would be given an extra three months – or more if need be – after March to decide which services to commission, during which services would continue to receive funding.

The chair of London Councils’ grants committee, Mayor of Lewisham Steve Bullock, said: “Members of the grants committee have recommended the continuation of a grants programme focusing on pan-London commissions within a set of agreed priorities.

“These include services, such as those to do with homelessness and domestic violence, where there is often no clear relationship with an individual borough.

“Committee members are also recommending a managed transition when it comes to the remaining services.

“This would allow boroughs more time to establish which services they should continue to fund and give them flexibility to decide what will work best in their own local areas.”

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