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Housing

Drastic cuts to homelessness services are ‘a matter of life and death’

A new report by homelessness charity St Mungo’s links cuts to support services for vulnerable people with the rise in homelessness

A report from homelessness charity St Mungo’s reveals how funding cuts to vital support services for vulnerable people is leading to an increase in homelessness.

The report, Home For Good: The Role of Floating Support Services in Ending Rough Sleeping shows that “floating support” services, which help people remain in their homes by providing tailored assistance with managing finances, mental health and substance use issues have been cut by 18 per cent across England since 2013. In areas with greater levels of rough sleeping, this has been even higher, with London suffering a 41 per cent reduction in funding.

This has lead to more vulnerable people losing their homes and ending up sleeping rough.

With over 440 people dying while homeless in the UK over the past year, cuts to services like these are a matter of life and death

The report says: “Across England, specialist services for people with complex needs saw the most drastic cuts, including support for substance use issues (41 per cent) and mental health needs (46 per cent), with services for ex-offenders taking a devastating 88 per centfunding cut.”

According to St Mungo’s, funding levels began to drop when ring-fencing of support was removed in 2009, and has gathered pace ever since.

The charity’s chief executive Howard Sinclair said: “For someone who has been sleeping rough, moving off the streets into independent living is a huge step forward. But it comes with big challenges – from managing finances to dealing with past trauma or experiencing loneliness and isolation.

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“Without the right practical and emotional support, things can quickly fall apart, leading people to return to the streets.”

On the back of this report, St Mungo’s is launching its Home For Good campaign. It is calling on the Government to restore funding for local authorities to deliver homelessness services – including floating support.

Everyone should get the support they need to leave the streets behind

Sinclair added: “With over 440 people dying while homeless in the UK over the past year, cuts to services like these are a matter of life and death.

“If the Government is serious about achieving its aim of ending rough sleeping for good by 2027, it must guarantee long-term funding for homelessness services, including floating support. Everyone should get the support they need to leave the streets behind.”

This is the latest in a series of devastating reports into poverty and homelessness in the UK. A report by Shelter last month revealed that 320,000 people in the UK are now homeless. This equates to one in every 201 people. And the charity said this was likely to be an underestimate – and did not include ‘hidden homeless‘ people.

The government has also been accused of utilising ‘weapons of mass distraction’ to avoid facing the issues highlighted in UN poverty inspector Philip Alston’s recent report. Alston warned that the UK government’s policies and cuts to social support are entrenching people in poverty and “inflicting unnecessary misery”.

Youth homelessness charity Centrepoint also declared the year’s busiest shopping day ‘Bleak Friday’ for 18,000 young people who will be homeless this Christmas.

Centrepoint CEO Seyi Obakin said: “For many, Christmas is a season to splurge with thousands enjoying the Black Friday deals, but for young homeless people it can be bleak, scary, and sometimes life-threatening.”

While Brexit continues to take up most of the political space in this country, pressure is building on the government to address the steady drip of devastating news on homelessness and poverty.

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