Sunday, July 03, 2011

What a Pickle! Homelessness is on the increase.

A leaked letter from Eric Pickles to David Cameron has cheered me up today. Pickles told the Prime Minister that his welfare policies which are due to come into effect in 2013 risk making 40,000 families homeless. This aspect is far from cheery, but what is heartening is that there are people working at the heart of Government who have a conscience.

There’s no doubt in my mind that the decisions of this increasingly nasty right wing government will increase homelessness and child poverty. The letter warns that:

• 40,000 families will be made homeless by the welfare reforms which spells "some very serious practical issues for DCLG priorities".
• An estimated £270m saving from the benefits cap will be wiped out by the need to divert resources to help the newly homeless and is likely to "generate a net cost”
• There will be additional costs to local authorities (having to provide extra homelessness provision and temporary accommodation)

If you consider that Notts County Council and Nottingham City Council have just used a wrecking ball on homelessness prevention services, it brings the leaked letter into sharp focus. Budgets have been cut by in excess of 50%. This comes at a time when people most need help and support to hold onto their home. The ‘Supporting People’ regime which has delivered a great many benefits to society as a whole, has been unceremoniously gutted by the coalition.

Andrew Redfern, Chief Exec of Framework Housing Association sums it up very well.

“SP is being destroyed by the recklessness of politicians and the incompetence of civil servants. All three parties are implicated.

The decisions taken at central and local level about the future of Supporting People have little or nothing to do with the economy. They are unnecessary, ill-considered changes driven by arrogance and an unwillingness to listen.

The reduction and closure of services is already having a visible impact. Informal street counts show an increase in rough sleeping over the past few months. Hostels are beginning to ‘silt up’ as people have nowhere to go, and more people are seeking immediate help by knocking on the doors of offices, churches and private dwellings.

Disproportionate cuts, targeted at the most vulnerable, do not merely harm those from whom services are withdrawn. They also increase the overall burden on the exchequer – an impact that is masked by the transfer of cost from one budget to another.”

So where do we go from here? Well, given that Iain Duncan Smith will probably resign if there’s a U-turn on the benefits bill, perhaps the solution for Cameron is a less embarrassing backtrack on localism… So I say…. Restore the Supporting People Ringfence. It’s sorely needed, now more than ever before.

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