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‘Worrying times ahead’ for homeless in England

Research indicates that cuts are already hitting homelessness services

Research published yesterday by Homeless Link, the umbrella body for homeless charities, indicates that cuts in public funding are already having an impact - with services closing, fewer beds available and more projects having to turn homeless people away.

The annual SNAP study (Survey of Needs and Provision) charts changes across homeless services in England. The survey of 500 day centres and accommodation projects, carried out in September 2010, highlights a number of worrying trends:

Falling funding

  • 70% of all services cited ‘funding’ as the top issue facing their project,
  • 50% of services said that they had seen a reduction in income in 2010. Of this group, 63% believed that lower funding had impacted on clients,
  • The two most common impacts of the cuts cited were reduction in staff and reduced services and/or closures.

Fewer services, fewer bed spaces

  • The number of available bed spaces fell by 3%, a fall of at least 1169 bed spaces,
  • 38 accommodation and advice projects have closed.

Fewer full-time staff

  • Day centres and second stage accommodation services have both seen a fall in the number of full-time staff and an increased use of volunteers and part-time workers.

Access problems

  • 77% of accommodation services reported having no empty beds on an average night,
  • The percentage of services turning homeless people away because the project is full increased from 18% to 26%.

Increasing health problems

  • Projects reported seeing more clients with drug, alcohol and physical health problems,
  • Accessing help for homeless people with health problems has become more difficult since SNAP 2010. Drug service availability is down by 6%, alcohol and physical health service availability are both down by 4%.

Projects continue to provide services that they are not directly funded to provide

  • 93% of  projects provide physical health services to clients and 92% provide mental health services  but only 8% receive NHS funding for this work,
  • 92% of projects provide alcohol services and 89% provide drug services but only 5% receive funding from substance misuse agencies.

Despite the contraction in the sector, the report indicates that homeless charities continue to get better at supporting and engaging clients

  • 95% of projects now involve their clients,
  • The number of projects employing ex-clients has increased by 9%, from 33% to 42%,
  • There has been a 6% increase in the number of day centre clients managing their own health better, from 37% to 42%,
  • Despite the economic downturn, there has been a 2% increase in the number of direct access hostel clients going into paid work, from 15% to 17%,
  • There has been a fall in the number of clients being evicted or abandoning their accommodation.

Commenting on the report, Chief Executive of Homeless Link, Jenny Edwards said:

“Thanks to public investment and backing, homeless charities have made huge progress in getting people off the streets and into homes and jobs.  However, this report indicates worrying times ahead for services that provide a vital safety net for people who fall on hard times.

“For the first time in years, we have seen services shrinking. Many charities are already at full capacity but, because of falling funding, some are having to reduce opening hours, cut staff or even close. This is at a time when the harsh economic climate is only likely to increase the demand for homeless services.

“By preventing people from ending up on the streets and getting into more problems, homeless services pay for themselves. With the local authority cuts for 2011/12 just starting to bite, this vital work could be at risk in many areas.

“We are urging local authorities to work with us and our members to ensure that front-line help for homeless people is protected.”

The annual SNAP survey is funded by the Department of Communities and Local Government.

Click here to download the full SNAP 2011 report.

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