LETTER: Cuts will increase homelessness

A homeless person in a shop front.
A homeless person in a shop front.

I am very concerned about the Government’s proposed changes in the funding of supported housing with effect from April 2018 and its impact on vulnerable people in our area.

I know from 30-plus years of working in the sector that the impact of reducing housing benefit to tenants living in supported housing would have a disastrous effect on vulnerable adults and any children living in, for example, refuges.

The supporting people programme introduced in 2003 is now part of mainstream local authority budgets and is again under enormous pressure due to cutbacks.

Approved landlords providing care and support to vulnerable tenants are able to claim ‘exempt’ status and higher housing benefit levels to cover costs. This additional funding pays for infrastructure, housing management maintaining the tenancy and dealing with low level support. At best it is preventative social work, keeping people safe and saving society higher costs in the future.

The proposal to reduce rents to the local reference rent would result in the closure of thousands of bed spaces in the UK and in Derbyshire many hostels, refuges and sheltered schemes would not be viable. This would result in a dramatic increase in street homelessness and vulnerable people being at severe risk.

The cuts mean that providers of supported housing face a funding shortfall, and are going to be forced to close many thousands of supported homes.

In addition to the delay, uncertainty is already causing ‘planning blight’ with some housing associations cancelling proposed projects including extra care schemes for older people.

With increasing dementia need this is a critical area of social and health care. Supported housing has a great contribution to make in addressing key areas of social policy and the proposed cuts in housing benefit are counter- productive, short-sighted and cruel in my view.

I hope that some of your readers will do as I have and raise these concerns with their MP.

Jackie King-Owen

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