Why the budget 2018 is a missed opportunity for ending rough sleeping

    Following the announcement of the autumn 2018 budget, Rory Weal, Senior Policy and Public Affairs Officer, analyses what the Government’s plans mean for those sleeping rough or at risk of homelessness.

    Amongst talk of an ‘end of austerity’ budget, the Chancellor yesterday delivered one that was really a missed opportunity from the perspective of homelessness.

    It had been a positive summer, with the Government listening to the homelessness sector and deciding to keep funding for supported housing in the welfare system, as well as publishing a rough sleeping strategy which contained a variety of interventions to stop the scandalous rise in the number of people sleeping rough across the country.

    However, the Budget failed to build on these developments, and did not contain measures which will deliver on the Government’s commitment to halve rough sleeping by 2022, and end it all together by 2027.

    There were bits of positive news to be found which – if delivered with homelessness in mind – could contribute to helping people off the streets.

    A new mental health crisis service

    On mental health, there was the news that a new mental health crisis service will be developed, as part of the NHS Long Term Plan. Given the scale of the mental health crisis on the streets and the difficulty many have accessing support, this is particularly welcome.

    The service will include comprehensive mental health support in every major A&E, more mental health specialist ambulances, and more crisis cafes. We want to see this service work with people sleeping rough who have mental health problems, providing support on the street if necessary.

    More money for the NHS

    However, we know that prevention is always better than cure. We want to see fewer people getting to crisis point and helped much earlier before conditions worsen.

    People sleeping rough have much higher rates not only of mental illness, but of physical health problems too, and shockingly high levels of mortality. So the cash injection for the NHS – £20bn over the next five years – is desperately needed and clearly welcome. But we know that without a clear plan, these kinds of funding injections often don’t make their way through to helping the most vulnerable. That is why we want the upcoming NHS Long Term Plan to earmark some of these funds for specialist services for people sleeping rough, to ensure their needs are not forgotten.

    Funding to address problems in Universal Credit roll-out

    Universal Credit roll-out has had a particularly damaging impact on people sleeping rough, which is why the £1bn announced in the budget to address problems with roll-out is welcome. These problems include large deductions being taken from Universal Credit awards to repay Advance Payments and other debts such as rent arrears. We are also seeing increases in arrears for service charge in supported housing, as Universal Credit no longer allows claimants living in supported housing to request direct payments to their landlord for the likes of gas and electricity.

    The complexity of the new system means that many struggle to navigate it and make a claim without support. The cumulative effect of this is to make it even harder for people to move on from homelessness.

    We want this new funding used to address these serious problems. However, in order to stop vulnerable claimants being pushed further into destitution, we still want to see a pause in the roll-out to give time for the process to be fixed.

    But not enough to end rough sleeping…

    Despite these positive notes, the overall feeling is that this was a missed opportunity. With no funding measures on rough sleeping specifically, and no plans to tackle the key drivers of homelessness, there is still much more to do to get close to the Government ambition to ending rough sleeping by 2027.

    We need to see further commitments to increase social housing, strengthen private renting and funding for homelessness services for people to find, and keep, a home for good. We will be working to build support for these changes in the months ahead. With the numbers sleeping rough continuing to rise, we cannot afford to delay.

    Our Home for Good campaign is calling on the government to put an end to rough sleeping by ensuring that everyone gets the long-term housing and support they need to rebuild their lives. Sign Kevin’s open letter to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government.

    My history is my heritage

    In celebration of Black History Month, we have been sharing the diverse stories of our staff and clients. Grace Hicks-Tingle – Bristol Recovery College Apprentice and Black, Asian and Minority, Ethnic (BAME) Network lead – shares how she discovered more about her origins.

    “My parents came to England in 1956 and 1957 from Jamaica. The British Government had promised everyone a better life in England.

    I am part of the ‘Windrush generation’

    They arrived in England on the Empire Windrush. The Empire Windrush first arrived at Tilbury Docks on 22 June 1948 carrying 492 Caribbean passengers. This historic event would mark the beginning of the mass immigration movement in the UK. By 1961 an estimated 17,200 people of West Indian origin has been born in the UK; we are now known as the Windrush generation.

    My heritage goes beyond Jamaica

    My history and heritage does not just start and finish in Jamaica, the home of my parents. I discovered that my grandfather was born in Jerusalem and is known as a Falasha Jew; it is said that they were the first Black Jews of dark skin. He ended up in Jamaica after the First World War, where he met my grandmother.

    On my father’s side, my great, great, great grandfather was a slave owner in the parish of St Ann’s, Jamaica. He was called Lord McTingle and he originated from Scotland. All his slaves were called McTingle. I’m not sure when they dropped the ‘Mc’ from my family surname, but my Dad’s birth was registered as a Tingle without the ‘Mc’.

    My history is my heritage

    To me, heritage is not just the colour of my skin; it includes the way my history began. There’s a saying ‘never judge a book by its cover’ – and I think it’s equally valid to say ‘never judge a person’s heritage by the colour of their skin’. It is deeper and more varied than you think.”

    Bristol Recovery College is a pioneering, inclusive learning programme, based on the principle that learning can be a transformative experience. Set in our New Street Hub, in the heart of St Jude’s, we offer a safe, inclusive and creative learning space underpinned by our recovery service ethos. All our courses are free and designed, delivered and attended by St Mungo’s clients, staff and volunteers. Courses are also open to the general public. You can find out more here.

    I call myself a citizen of the world

    In celebration of Black History Month, we have been sharing the diverse stories of our staff and clients. Shaaban, Deputy Manager of Islington Mental Health Service, explains how his own experiences of homelessness have helped shape his approach to supporting people with complex needs such as those recovering from drug and alcohol use or mental and physical health problems. Shaaban focuses on individual strengths and inspires people to believe that their recovery really is possible.

    Many people think about people who are homeless in terms of what their needs are, what is wrong with them. But I believe that we should be thinking about what they are good at. Everyone has a story, and everyone has achieved something in their lives.

    I call myself a citizen of the world, a global citizen. My dad was a Tanzanian diplomat so I’ve travelled around a bit; I started primary school in Beijing and lived in the Sudan, so I speak a bit of Arabic. I was also in the Tanzanian army for about two and a half years. But my own story also involves personal experience of sleeping rough on the streets of London.

    I used to sleep on the Strand or near Victoria station

    For me, one of the worst things about sleeping rough was being physically abused. In the 90s, I used to sleep on the Strand or near Victoria station in London. It got busy around there, especially at night. Sometimes people got drunk and violent, and would attack and even urinate on people sleeping rough. I was also singled out by some other rough sleepers because of my race.

    After three months on the streets, an outreach worker gave me details of a St Mungo’s hostel in Clapham. I went and they checked me in the same day. I slept in a bed that night.

    That was the beginning of my journey to recovery. I was at the St Mungo’s hostel for about six months, and then moved on to another hostel in Soho for nine months. After that I went through rehab twice, the first time in 2000, and the second time in 2005.

    I started an apprenticeship

    During my second and final stay in rehab, the manager there suggested that I train as a support worker, so I started an apprenticeship.

    I wanted to turn my own painful experiences into something positive, so after finishing my training, I decided to specialise in mental health and substance use. I have a degree and qualifications in mental health, psychology and counselling.

    I’ve worked for St Mungo’s for almost a decade now. It’s an inspiring organisation to work for, because we don’t stop at giving people a roof over their heads. We address the underlying reasons why people become homeless in the first place.

    I know from first-hand experience that recovery is possible

    My role is certainly challenging, but the thing that puts a smile on my face is getting to know my clients, and seeing the transition that they make.

    People are always asking me about my hat, because I never take it off! I tell them, when people get married, they wear a wedding ring to represent the commitment that they’ve made. My hat represents a moment of great change in my life, a moment when I committed to my own recovery, and to helping others to recover.

    A lot of my clients experienced feelings of failure, shame and guilt when they were sleeping rough. People often turn to drugs and alcohol to self-medicate against the pain of these emotions. I know from first-hand experience that recovery is possible, with the right help. I’m glad that telling my story helps people to believe that.

    Celebrating our Diversity

    As this week marks the start of Black History Month, Amy White, Head of Client Involvement, Diversity and Inclusion, reflects on some of the activities that took place across our offices last month for Diversity Day.

    The idea behind Diversity Day is to raise awareness, share and learn from each other and celebrate our differences so everyone at St Mungo’s feels valued for who they are.

    Last year our first ever Diversity Day was a huge success with 300 staff, clients and volunteers getting involved. This year we wanted to make the celebrations bigger and better than ever.

    Staff and clients organised activities at our services across the South and South West. We also hosted three events at our head office, one of our large hostels in London and our Recovery College in Bristol.

    A celebration of who we are

    It was great to share our cultural heritage, identity, skills and talents with others, getting involved with art workshops, live music, poetry and much more. We also had an impressive array of foods from around the world and stalls from each of our seven Diversity Networks.

    Throughout the day we held a series of insightful talks. A range of experts spoke on issues including tackling hate crime, race equality, improving the housing sector’s response to domestic abuse and the reform of the Gender Equality Act and clients also shared their personal experiences.

    Our strength lies in our diversity

    Diversity and inclusion is something we are committed to in our work every day. However, it was fantastic to have a dedicated day to focus on these values and highlight how important they are to us.

    We believe having diversity of thought and experiences makes us more innovative and better able to meet the different needs of our clients. It also ensures people feel valued, respected and able to be their best selves at work.

    Engaging staff and clients

    I’ve had some great feedback from the day, including from Pragna – former Deputy Chair of our Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Network (BAME) Network – who said “the diversity initiative at St Mungo’s has made such a positive impact on my life, that I have continued to carry it forward not just in my professional life, but in my personal life too.

    the diversity initiative at St Mungo’s has made such a positive impact on my life, that I have continued to carry it forward not just in my professional life, but in my personal life too

    “Being involved with the Networks gave me confidence, built my skills and thankfully opened my eyes to my own judgements and misconceptions, as well as providing a safe space for open dialogue.”

    We wanted the day to have a lasting legacy and encouraged all staff and clients to commit to one action to continue to promote inclusion. I look forward to seeing how people put this into practice over the next year and beyond.

    St Mungo’s was highly commended for the best diversity and inclusion initiative at the CIPD People Management Awards 2018 and has been nominated for the Personnel Today Awards 2018 Diversity & Inclusion – Public Sector Award. Find out more about how our commitment to diversity shapes our organisational values here.

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