Homelessness, social care and local authorities: a UK spending roundup

Sajid Javid hailed the end of austerity once again as he announced £54 million of new funding to end homelessness

Sajid Javid has announced a new £54 million funding to end homelessness as he became the latest Conservative Chancellor to proclaim the end of austerity in today’s Spending Round.

The Chancellor said that “too many people are sleeping rough on our streets. The human cost of that is too high” as he revealed new funds that took spending up to £422m.

The government is aiming to end rough sleeping by 2027 and is closing in on their earlier target of halving rough sleeping by 2022.

Javid also announced a boost for social care, which has borne the brunt of local government cuts in recent years, promising £1 billion through a new grant and £500 million through the ring-fenced adult social care precept.

Elsewhere, there was £200 million announced to transform bus services while pledging to replace the 20,000 police officers previously cut through £750 million funding.

Rounding up his speech, Javid said: “It was just six weeks ago today this this new administration took office. The PM promised that we wouldn’t wait to Brexit day to deliver the people’s priorities – and today we meet that promise. With a new chapter for our public services, a new plan for our economy and a new beginning for this country.”

Big Issue founder and crossbench peer Lord John Bird responded to the Spending Round by issue a rallying cry for Boris Johnson’s administration to make more of an effort to tackle the root causes of poverty, rather than the symptoms.

“The Chancellor says that the Johnson Government is turning the page on austerity and beginning a decade of renewal,” said Lord Bird. “If Downing Street is serious about this mission, it’s now time for Mr Javid to completely rethink how and why he sets budgets in the first place.

“His announcement of £54m to reduce homelessness will no doubt offer relief to some of the thousands of people sleeping rough today, but if HM Treasury really wants to do something about the systemic causes of poverty, we need a revolution in government planning, budgeting and delivery.

“It’s time to get the root causes of destitution – illiteracy, low skills, high living costs, insecure work, low pay, family problems and an ineffective welfarism – and not just focus on the symptoms of poverty.”

In his response, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell pointed to the funding gap that local authorities face when tackling homelessness.

“He mentioned just now £54 million of additional spending for tackling homelessness,” said McDonnell. “There has been a 160 per cent increase since 2010 and people have been dying on the streets. The Local Government Association has said that there is a funding gap of £100 million this year.”

Homelessness charities and organisations pointed to the lack of commitment from Javid to end the five-week wait for Universal Credit payments or to raise local housing allowance.

Depaul UK CEO Mike Thiedke said: “The gap between rents and housing benefit is trapping young people in homelessness.”

Elsewhere, Faye Greaves, policy and practice officer at the Chartered Institute of Housing, led the calls for prevention to gain a bigger focus from central government.

She said: “An extra £54 million for tackling homelessness is good, don’t get me wrong, but we’re missing serious investment in areas that prevent it from happening in the first place. Until that particular penny drops we’ll only ever be responding to homelessness.”

Scotland

Meanwhile the Scottish Government has promised up to £4.5m to support third sector groups fighting the homelessness crisis on the frontline.

Ministers also announced an investment of £32.5m in its Rapid Rehousing and Housing First programmes, starting this year to last for the next three. All local authorities in Scotland are now setting their rapid rehousing transition plans in motion, with £8m from the government to support the initiative, which ministers said will make sure people who become homeless are moved to a settled home as soon as possible.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the new policies were based on “a social security system based on the principles of fairness, dignity and respect,” with Holyrood’s “basic commitment to social justice” underpinning its approach to homelessness and housing.

Importantly, councils will no longer be required to determine whether a person became homeless ‘intentionally’, aimed at making it easier for people with financial and mental health issues to access the support they need.

And news is set to come from Holyrood soon on an extension to the Unsuitable Accommodation Order which will cut the amount of time homeless people are legally allowed to spend in temporary accommodation like B&Bs before they must be moved to more stable housing.

Sturgeon also brought good news for care experienced campaigners, which they said will make a real difference to people who are or have been in care – if fully realised.

That includes housing payments for young care experienced people from April next year. The age limit on the care experienced bursary which provides financial support to care leavers who want to go into higher education will be removed, making it easier for those later in life to go to university.

Care experienced people aged between 18 and 26 will also become eligible for free dental care on the NHS, with the government acknowledging “the negative impacts that poor dental health can have on physical health, mental wellbeing and self-confidence”.

Ministers also said they intend to create a law that places brothers and sisters who are taken into care together when it is in their best interests.

Duncan Dunlop, CEO of charity Who Cares? Scotland, said the new policies are “very welcome”.

He added: “It is testament to the determination of the care experienced campaigners, who continue to fight for change, that this progress has been made. It is also evidence that the First Minister is genuinely listening to the care experienced people that she has been spending time with.

“These policies mitigate and tackle some of the injustices that care experienced people face, but not all.”

The First Minister also announced that the Scottish Child Payment will be brought forward once again for children under six – with the first payments expected to reach families around Christmas next year. It will be available to all other eligible families with children under 16 by the end of 2022.

The government said that when it has been fully rolled out, the initiative will benefit 410,000 children – over a third of those in Scotland – and will lift around 30,000 out of relative poverty.