Homelessness charities have criticised the government’s new report into preventing homelessness, in the light of ongoing welfare reforms.
While Making every contact count sets out a ‘cross-governmental approach to ensuring that anyone at risk of homelessness gets help at the earliest possible stage’ and details ‘clear commitments from government to stop the slide towards homelessness in its tracks’, housing charities have warned that cuts to services and benefit reforms risk dramatically worsening homelessness rates.
The report pledges earlier support for people with drug, alcohol and mental health issues, young people and prisoners, as well as improved joint working between the health, criminal justice, local government and voluntary sectors. Housing minister Grant Shapps also announced an extra £3.5m funding for the ‘No second night out’ initiative which aims to stop anyone spending more than one night on the streets.
‘No single voluntary service, government agency, council or government department can prevent homelessness alone – but working together we can make a big impact,’ said Mr Shapps. ‘Every single contact these vulnerable people have with our public services – from council drop-ins to healthcare visits – should be made to count, turning prevention into the cure for anyone facing the real and frightening prospect of sleeping on the streets.’
The umbrella body for homeless charities, Homeless Link, however, said that while the report’s vision that ‘homelessness is everyone’s business’ was to be welcomed, the potential for welfare reform to ‘further fuel homeless numbers and funding cuts to the very services that help homeless people’ meant that the report lacked detail in how its aims could be achieved in practice.
Crisis called the report a ‘missed opportunity’ that failed to address the key issues of lack of support for single homeless people, the impact of cuts and the ‘desperate shortage’ of housing, while the Local Government Association (LGA) said the document ‘missed the bigger picture’.
‘Councils are working closely with partners to place people into secure, appropriate accommodation and provide the most comprehensive support they can, whether that be equipping them with the skills to find work or ensuring their health and wellbeing,’ said chair of the LGA’s environment board Mike Jones. ‘However, this is only getting tougher as a result of job losses, rent increases and welfare cuts. Councils, who are contending with significant cuts to their budgets, cannot do this alone and the future of this type of support will be dependent on the whole public sector sharing resources and working together.’
Report at www.communities.gov.uk