As one of the country’s main providers of housing, training and support services for homeless people, Riverside has given a measured welcome to Chancellor George Osborne’s budget announcements around funding for homelessness prevention services today.
“The Government’s proposals to turn the tide of funding cuts to supported housing services for vulnerable people is very welcome but needs to be seen in the light of huge reductions in funding over the last few years,” said Helen Gore, Riverside’s Head of Supported Housing.
“Each year Riverside provides temporary housing, training and support to around 3,000 vulnerable homeless people to help them pull their lives back together. But the reality is that due to the impact of recent Government funding cuts we have been able to help less and less people.
“Investing in homelessness prevention has so many benefits. It improves people’s health and takes pressure off local health services. It also reduces the prevalence and damage that issues like addiction can have. As people gain their self-esteem and confidence back it helps them access training and employment opportunities enabling them to become productive members of their communities again.”
The National Audit Office has estimated that overall investment in housing-related support services has fallen by an average of 34% since 2010 and Riverside, along with many other housing and support providers has seen a raft of their services decommissioned by local authorities due to funding restrictions. Current proposals to cap housing related benefit payments to Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates will lead to a massive gap between the costs of running safe and secure homeless accommodation services and the rents received, leading to many more services being forced to close. If supported Housing is not made exempt from LHA rates, today’s £100m from the Chancellor will be a drop in the ocean if intended to help bridge the gap in funding.
“Riverside is committed to continuing to provide housing and support services but it has been an Everest-sized challenge to do this in many areas where funding has had to be reduced by local authorities,” continued Helen Gore. “It is heartening that the Chancellor is recognising the compelling reasons for preventing the devastating impact of homelessness on people and communities. Today’s small-scale funding announcement needs to be followed by others that will allow organisations like ours to put in place proper homelessness prevention services where they are needed.”
The impact of funding reductions on local authorities, the National Audit Office (2014), p. 26