In April 2003, the Government introduced the Supporting People funding stream, which pays for accommodation-based and floating support services for homeless people and other vulnerable groups - enabling them to enjoy a better quality of life, to live more independently and to maintain their tenancies.
Supporting People is a central government fund paid to local authorities, who then contract services to meet local need.
The new Coalition Government has now de-ringfenced Supporting People funding so that local authorities can spend SP money more broadly. Read more in SP Services 4 facts 4 questions briefing (Jan 2011).
The present system for protecting people from homelessness builds on legislation first passed by parliament in 1977, and now enshrined in the 1996 Housing Act and the 2002 Homelessness Act. This legislation places certain duties on local authorities to provide settled accommodation to households in priority need, who are not intentionally homeless. The priority needs categories include families with children, some categories of young people, and other people who are considered to be vulnerable due to, for example, a mental health condition.
In March 2005, ODPM published Sustainable Communities: settled homes; changing lives - a strategy for tackling homelessness. This strategy acknowledged the significant achievements made in meeting challenging targets to reduce rough sleeping and to end the long-term use of Bed & Breakfast hotels for families with children. It also set out policies and priorities for preventing homelessness over the next five years.
Our strategic alliance partners Crisis have researched the service people are receiving from councils (May 2011).
The £90 million Hostels Capital Improvement Programme (HCIP) was launched in January 2005, with the specific aim of increasing the number of people who move on positively from a hostel or homeless service - for example to a job or training and a settled home.
The HCIP fund also provided much-needed capital to transform the physical environment of existing hostels, and enabled hostels to remodel their approach to tackling homelessness by providing a pathway off the streets and into independent living. In 2007, Housing Minister Yvette Cooper launched the £70m Places of Change Programme (PCP) which looked to build upon the success of the HCIP.
In April 2008, ten years on from the publication of the Social Exclusion Unit report into rough sleeping, the Government set out a renewed commitment to the original goal to drive rough sleeping down as close to zero as possible. St Mungo's remains committed to this goal and welcomes the recognition that a new strategy to tackle rough sleeping is needed.
In June 201 the Coalition Government announced the formation of a new Ministerial working group on preventing and tackling homelessness. A new way of measuring rough sleeper numbers was also introduced in January 2011.
Much good work has been done in London and beyond.
St Mungo's is involved in the capital with the No Second Night Out initiative as part of the London Delivery Board and is hosting the hub for this at one of our projects.
But homeless and vulnerable people must not be the casualties of cuts to Supporting People (SP) funding, and tough cuts to services could halt homeless people's recovery and lead to more rough sleepers on the streets.