£1bn a year funding gap for single homelessness

New research has found that nine years of government cuts have left local services for single homeless people with a shocking £1 billion a year funding gap.

St Mungo’s and Homeless Link, who jointly carried out the research, are warning that punishing cuts to council budgets are leaving increasing numbers of people at risk on the streets. In response, they are calling on the government to immediately act to make up the funding shortfall or miss its target of ending rough sleeping by 2027.

The report indicates that council spending on support for single homeless people in England fell by 53 per cent between 2008-9 and 2017-18, meaning that local authorities in England are now spending almost £1 billion less a year on these vital homelessness services compared to ten years ago. In fact, more than £5 billion less has been spent on services for single homeless people over the past nine years than would have been spent had funding continued at 2008-9 levels.

The charity also found that single people and couples without children are the least likely to have a legal right to be housed by their council and so are the most likely to end up sleeping on the streets. This is leaving vulnerable people with nowhere to turn. Data from Homeless Link shows a 30 per cent fall in the number of bed spaces in accommodation projects for single homeless people, including hostels, from an estimated 50,000 in 2008 to 35,000 in 2017.

Howard Sinclair, chief executive of St Mungo’s, said: “This shocking billion pound a year funding gap must be a wake-up call for the government. Councils have a crucial role to play in preventing and reducing homelessness and rough sleeping, but years of cuts have left them struggling to tackle rising homelessness with fewer and fewer resources. If the government does not act to restore funding to previous levels, it is likely to miss its target of ending rough sleeping by 2027.

“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 nearly 600 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 and to turn the tide of rising homelessness. 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.”

Martin Tett, Local Government Association Housing spokesman, said: “This timely report highlights the significant barriers facing councils, who between 2010 and 2020 will have lost almost 60p out of every £1 they had from government to spend on services, and face a funding gap of £421 million on homelessness services alone by 2024/25.

“Councils want to end homelessness by preventing it happening in the first place, but are currently housing more than 200,000 homeless people, many of them children, in temporary accommodation. Councils spent nearly £1 billion supporting families into temporary accommodation in 2017/18 alone, up £145 million from 2015/16. This is bad for families and unsustainable for councils, which as a result have less funding to invest in preventing homelessness for everyone.

“The government’s Rough Sleeping Strategy provides some helpful support, but more needs to be done to prevent homelessness happening in the first place. To achieve this, the government needs to use its upcoming Spending Review to reform the welfare system, free councils to build more social homes, and sustainably fund them to deliver homelessness services.”

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