Protecting vital homelessness prevention support

Our Chief Executive, Neil Blanchard, outlines the current issues facing funding for homelessness prevention support across Sussex. 

Over the past year, there have been a number of Government initiatives, including additional revenue funding, responding to the growing housing and homelessness crisis. This has included the Homeless Reduction Act implemented in 2018, which put a legal duty on English councils to prevent homelessness, and more recently opportunities for local authorities to bid to reduce rough sleeping.

Although it is positive that the Government acknowledges the need to take action, Southdown experience is that there often appears to be a lack of wider coordination or alignment of how newer initiatives fit with existing local homeless reduction and prevention services.

In particular, at a time when new funding streams start to flow into local areas across Sussex, conversely organisations such as Southdown have experienced widescale reductions to existing housing-related support services. In Southdown’s care this has included:

  • In East Sussex, funding for Home Works was cut by 28% (£900k) in October 2018
  • In West Sussex, funding for all housing-related support in the county, including Southdown’s West Sussex Homelessness Prevention Partnership service, will be cut by 64% (£4m) from October 2019 (Southdown services are due to receive a 40% cut overall)

These funding cuts are a direct consequence of reduced Government funding for housing-related support over recent years to County Councils.

Locally, we are doing what we can to protect vital services for people at risk of homelessness, rough sleeping and living in crisis situations. 

As part of our lobbying efforts to protect services, a key focus has been to highlight the human cost to Councils’ budget saving plans and enable clients of our services to have their views heard. An example of this is a powerful video produced towards the end of last year, which shares the experiences of people in West Sussex facing homelessness.

One additional recent frustration for Southdown has been the ending of the Hastings Rough Sleeper Prevention service from April 2019, which has received funding of £135k for two years as part of the Government’s Rough Sleeping Initiative. This service supported people at the very brink of having to spend their first night as street homeless.

Despite Rough Sleeping Initiative funding continuing to be allocated to East Sussex, this is no longer for a ‘prevention’ model but has moved to focus on homelessness ‘relief’ services (working with those already homeless). For Southdown, this means that four skilled workers will no longer be employed on the contract but new posts are being recruited to within other agencies.

We believe that this level of currently changing ‘pilot’ projects with short-term funding does not make best use of resources, or allow for effective learning and evaluation of support models and sustainability of outcomes.

However, the Government does seem to have recently acknowledged the need for improvements in longer-term local planning to reduce homelessness and have issued a consultation document, called ‘Tackling Homelessness Together’.

This document seeks views on the effectiveness of existing non-statutory and statutory local accountability and partnership structures; the challenges and opportunities in two-tier authorities; whether the Government should introduce Homelessness Reduction Boards; and on how else they might improve local accountability and partnership working. Southdown will be responding to this consultation and supporting any new structures that emerge.

The cuts made to our housing support services over the past year will undoubtedly have a devastating impact on vulnerable people at risk of homelessness, rough sleeping and living in crisis situations. Going forwards, our priority is to minimise this impact by working with local Councils, providers, NHS partners, our clients, MPs and District and Boroughs. By working together, we can explore how we can develop models of support tailored to local communities’ needs that make best use of available funding, from a variety of sources."

 
For more information and/ or if you would like to work with us to help protect homelessness prevention support across Sussex please email our Chief Executive at neil.blanchard@southdown.org.