Budget homelessness measures ‘at risk’ because of policy changes elsewhere

Salvation Army welcomes Universal Credit changes but urges government to scrap ‘unworkable’ model for short-term supported housing funding.

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Potential benefits of the government’s proposed Homelessness Reduction Taskforce and Housing First pilots risk being be restricted because of policy changes elsewhere, the Salvation Army (SA) says.

Responding to Wednesday’s budget, The SA remains “deeply concerned” by the government’s proposal for the future funding of short-term supported housing – which includes its residents experiencing homelessness.

Rather than offering a solid platform for providers to continue investing in their residents and services, the SA says the new proposal sees all funding for ‘short-term’ supported housing being devolved to hard-pressed local authorities to distribute on a discretionary basis.

Mitch Menagh, The SA’s director of homelessness services, said the charity welcomed government recognition of the need for consistent, comprehensive dialogue with a range of stakeholders from across government and the homelessness sector with the introduction of its Homelessness Reduction Taskforce.

He said: “We are pleased that the government plans to invest in piloting the approach in Manchester, Liverpool and the West Midlands.

“We know from our experience of our new Housing First project in Cardiff, the nature of these pilots will be especially important in determining what a fully-fledged Housing First model should look like and how it will interact with other parts of the support system.

“It should not be considered as a direct replacement for other forms of accommodation-based provision, such as supported housing, which will continue to provide a vital lifeline for those for whom Housing First might be inappropriate.

“Yet, we remain concerned that the potential benefits of the Homelessness Reduction Taskforce and Housing First pilots will be restricted because of policy changes elsewhere.

“In particular, The Salvation Army remains deeply concerned by the government’s proposal for the future funding of ‘short-term’ supported housing which includes our residents experiencing homelessness.

“Rather than offering a solid platform for providers to continue investing in their residents and services, the new proposal sees all funding for ‘short-term’ supported housing being devolved to hard-pressed local authorities to distribute on a discretionary basis.

“We are saddened that the government has continued to ignore the findings and recommendations we published as a result of commissioning an independent report by Frontier Economics, which highlights the significant levels of financial uncertainty that an entirely discretionary approach to funding will create for our residents and services.

“Part of the government’s rationale for this new approach is the difficulties of incorporating ‘short-term’ supported housing into Universal Credit.

“However, the amendments made to Universal Credit as part of the Autumn Budget, including the removal of the seven day waiting period for a first payment and the ability of claimants to access up to a month’s worth of Universal Credit via an interest free advance, help to remove many of these difficulties.

“The Salvation Army views these changes to Universal Credit as a welcome opportunity for the government to reconsider its proposed approach to the future funding of ‘short-term’ supported housing.

“Only by offering an approach, which guarantees the long term future of residents and services, will the government be able to enjoy the full benefits of the Homelessness Reduction Task Force and Housing First pilots.”

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