27 June 2011
Homeless people risk even greater social exclusion if the Government's ‘Big Society' idea doesn't show more muscle, warns the head of St Mungo's.
Charles Fraser CBE, Chief Executive of St Mungo's, voiced his concerns as the charity launched a new report 'Enough Room: Is society big enough for homeless people?', marking the start of its 2011 Action Week (27 June to 3 July).
The report highlights that homeless people see volunteering as an important way in which they can move from feeling ‘shunned', ‘excluded' and ‘out in the cold' to being active community members again.
But survey findings from homeless people, sector leaders and the public reveal concerns that the picture could become yet bleaker, with homelessness rising and cuts starting to impact on the services people need.
The report highlights that:
Charles Fraser said: "Homeless people already feel stigmatised and excluded, yet they have a strong sense of wanting to give something back through volunteering. On the other hand, they are very sceptical about the Government's ‘Big Society' message. All of those interviewed thought the Big Society would have a negative effect on them, inextricably linked to cuts.
"For society to be truly big enough to include homeless people, we need determined leadership from the very top to make sure that every government action - big or small - takes into account the impact it will have on deeply disadvantaged people.
"What's needed is an approach with more muscle. Some Government departments have already been showing the way by prioritising disadvantaged people in their plans and making sure that precious government funding for disadvantaged groups really does reach them.
"If Government committed to do that across departments, and people thought their input would make a critical difference, then I believe communities would take a compassionate responsibility for everyone in their midst.
"If not, there is a risk of pushing homeless and vulnerable people into even greater social exclusion - something which we know can take decades to repair."
The charity is calling on the Government to make the Big Society work through creating a plan for inclusion, and use the Cross Ministerial Working Group on Homelessness to scrutinise existing Government reforms to ensure they enable inclusion; and local government to take an active role to ensure that homeless people are included in local decision making
St Mungo's is also pledging to create opportunities for homeless people to be part of society, and asking the public to do the same.
For further information contact: Judith Higgin, St Mungo's, on 020 8762 5645, or email firstname.lastname@example.org or Gemma Hollingshead, St Mungo's, on 020 8762 5570, email email@example.com
St Mungo's manages more than 100 housing and support projects in London and the south, helping more than 3,000 people a year with access to housing, health, skills and employment. Last year staff supported around 1,700 people into employment, volunteering, gaining qualifications or moving on to further education or training.