It’s simply not enough: Rough sleeping targets will be missed following decade of cuts

Thursday 27 February 2020

Funding for vital homelessness services is still short by £1bn per year according to the latest Local Authority Spending on Homelessness report out today commissioned by St Mungo’s and Homeless Link.

The new report, produced by WPI Economics and released on the day that new government rough sleeping stats revealed that 4266 people slept on the streets of England last year, shows that last year councils in England spent £1bn less on services supporting single homeless people compared to 2008/9.

At the same time, councils are being forced to spend more than they did ten years ago on temporary accommodation for homeless families because of a shortage of social housing and cuts to housing benefit in the private rented sector.

Total council spending on all homelessness related activity has fallen from £2.9 billion in 2008/9 to £2.2 billion last year.

The charities are warning that cuts to council budgets are forcing people onto the streets, and are calling on the Government to invest an extra £1 billion a year in services that prevent homelessness and end rough sleeping – or inevitably face missing its target of ending rough sleeping by 2024.

Howard Sinclair, St Mungo’s CEO, said: “Its good news that today’s figures show a reduction in the numbers of people sleeping rough in England. We are pleased that the Prime Minister has committed to ending rough sleeping by 2024, but so far new initiatives are wholly insufficient to tackle the causes of homelessness. The funding that has been announced is simply not enough and too short term. After a decade of cuts and rising homelessness, the Government must act now to put back the one billion pounds to bring back the vital services that have been lost.

“The human cost of these cuts is all too real. The people we work with – many struggling with poor mental health, substance use or domestic violence – are often being left with no option but to sleep rough. With 726 people dying on our streets or while homeless in a year, this really is a matter of life and death.

“The Government must use this year’s Spending Review to put the money back. Without this urgent action they will inevitably miss their target to end rough sleeping by 2024. It can only do this by committing to a programme of guaranteed, long-term funding, so that everyone can find and keep a home for good.”

Rick Henderson, Chief Executive of Homeless Link, said: “Homelessness services across the country are working hard to provide effective and innovative support but this new research shows just how constrained they are by this woeful funding shortfall. We need the Government to commit to sustainable funding that will ensure that services can give people the long-term support they need to leave homelessness behind.”

The Government has said it plans to spend £437m on reducing homelessness and rough sleeping next year. This is still less than half of the £1bn that was missing from homelessness services last year, following a decade of cuts.

St Mungo’s and Homeless Link are calling on the Government to use the 2020 Spending Review to redress the shortfall by investing an extra £1bn a year in services that prevent homelessness and end rough sleeping. And ring-fence the money so it can’t be spent on anything else.

Today St Mungo’s client Jan has launched a campaign and started a petition to the Secretary of State Robert Jenrick to make sure that everyone can get the support they need to find and keep a home. He’s calling on the government to:

• Invest an extra £1 billion a year in services that prevent homelessness and end rough sleeping. And ring-fence the money so it can’t be spent on anything else
• Increase the number of social homes available to people with a history of rough sleeping
• Improve the private rented sector to better suit the needs of people with a history of rough sleeping

Jan says: “If I hadn’t met my keyworker Paulina, I’d still be on the streets instead of in my own place, working towards independence. So I know how important it is to be able to get support when you need it.

“I became homeless because I couldn’t make the rent for my flat in Brighton, despite working as a labourer. After sofa surfing for a while, I lived in the woods on and off for around two years. Having Paulina as my keyworker has changed everything. For the first time, I feel like someone’s supporting me and she treats me like a person. She’s helped me with so much, from getting me into my new place and helping me back to work to supporting me to deal with my finances.

“Paulina makes me want to put the effort in, because she’s working so hard as well – it’s why I’ve gone back to work. She’s given me back my self-confidence and self-respect.

“Everyone deserves the chance I’ve had to turn things around for themselves. That’s why it’s so important that homelessness services, like the one Paulina works for, get proper long-term funding so that they can continue helping people like me find a home and rebuild our lives.”

What can the public do?

• Join Jan’s campaign at www.mungos.org/homeforgood
• Contact StreetLink if you are concerned about someone sleeping rough
• Volunteer or donate at www.mungos.org/winter