Punishing funding cuts leave people who have slept rough at risk of returning to the streets

Years of funding cuts have devastated crucial services which help vulnerable people including those who have been sleeping rough to build a life away from the streets, according to new research from St Mungo’s Home for Good campaign.

The report, ‘Home for Good: The role of floating support services in ending rough sleeping’, shows that funding for “floating support” services across England fell by 18% over the past five years (2013-14 – 2017-18). Areas with the highest levels of rough sleeping reported some of the steepest declines, with London seeing a staggering 41% funding cut, despite nearly a quarter (24%) of people sleeping rough in the country being seen in the capital last year.

Floating support workers help stop people returning to the streets by providing support in their own home. This support is tailored to the person but can involve helping people to keep on top of their bills and control their finances; manage mental health or substance use problems; navigate the benefits system; or get into training or employment.

Across England, specialist services for people with complex needs saw the most drastic cuts, including support for substance use issues (41%) and mental health needs (46%), with services for ex-offenders taking a devastating 88% funding cut.

The five years of cuts highlighted in the research report follow a sustained pattern of falling funding which began in 2009, when the ring-fence around central Government funding for local authorities to provide housing support services was removed.

With fewer people able to get the help they need to stay in their homes, St Mungo’s is warning that these cuts may be putting lives at risk by contributing to the worrying rise in the number of people returning to the streets. Official figures show that since 2015, there has been a 27% increase in people returning to sleeping rough in London after at least a year away.

This summer, the Government pledged £19 million to fund these services as part of its new Rough Sleeping Strategy. This is a good first step, but it does not go nearly far enough to replace what has been lost after nearly a decade of cuts. And the funding is only available for two years.

St Mungo’s Home for Good campaign is calling on the Government to commit to restoring long-term, guaranteed funding for local authorities to deliver homelessness services, and to make sure these services include floating support.

Howard Sinclair, Chief Executive of St Mungo’s, said: “For someone who has been sleeping rough, moving off the streets into independent living is a huge step forward. But it comes with big challenges – from managing finances to dealing with past trauma or experiencing loneliness and isolation. Without the right practical and emotional support, things can quickly fall apart, leading people to return to the streets.

“With over 440 people dying while homeless in the UK over the past year, cuts to services like these are a matter of life and death. If the Government is serious about achieving its aim of ending rough sleeping for good by 2027, it must guarantee long-term funding for homelessness services, including floating support. Everyone should get the support they need to leave the streets behind.”

To support the Home for Good campaign visit mungos.org/homeforgood