Investment in the right support and a welfare system that works for the most vulnerable are just two of the things we ask for in this year’s Spending Review.
Awaiting the Spending Review
On Wednesday this week (25 November) the Government will publish the results of the Spending Review. The past few weeks has seen much speculation in the media about the savings government departments will be expected to take in their settlements over the course of the next Parliament. Departments which have an influence over homelessness policy will not be immune from this, so the sector is waiting with some anxiety to see exactly which areas of spending will be most affected.
The Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG), which has already taken 51% cut to its budget since 2010, has reportedly agreed to budget cuts over the next four years that average out at 30%. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has already faced cuts of £21bn from the welfare budget and the Government’s ambition to cut a further £12bn by 2018/19 has been the subject of much debate and scrutiny in recent months. However even after Wednesday it is likely to be some time before we have all the detail of individual departmental budgets and the settlement for local authorities, and what this will mean in practice for services working to tackle homelessness.
Over the past few months Homeless Link has continued to work behind the scenes to make the case for the commitments we outlined in our Spending Review submission to protect investment in the solutions that we know can help prevent and tackle homelessness. This included protecting investment in homelessness support, including the Homelessness Prevention Grant (HPG) as a named grant; funding a welfare system which covers housing costs for the most vulnerable; and retaining the current central allocation of Local Welfare Assistance. As we outlined in our submission, this is needed more than ever at a time when increasing levels of homelessness are placing more demand on services which have already seen disinvestment of 45%, according to a report by the National Audit Office in 2014.
These were issues we took to party conferences in the Autumn and have continued to raise in Parliament at meetings with Ministers, MPs and Lords. Last month we also met officials at the Treasury, with colleagues from the Making Every Adult Matter coalition and our members including Crisis and St Mungo’s Broadway, to discuss the importance of retaining the Homelessness Prevention Grant as well as proposals for a potential programme to support adults with complex needs.
We have also sought protection for supported accommodation from the proposed 1% rent reduction as set out in the Welfare Reform and Work Bill currently progressing through Parliament. Using invaluable evidence shared by our members we have gained commitment from a number of Peers over the past few weeks to lay down amendments when it reaches committee stage next month. Alongside a number of Homeless Link members, we have also raised this with Ministers to make clear what impact a 1% reduction would have on supported accommodation. Based on your feedback around half have said they would not be financially viable should the proposal be introduced.
Whatever the outcome of Wednesday’s announcement we know that a strong case for single homelessness still needs to be made. We know that choosing to disinvest in services and support for people experiencing homeless will do nothing to achieve financial benefits or make our society a fairer and healthier place to live. This is a message we will continue to make over the challenging weeks ahead.
Please keep an eye on our website for our response to the Spending Review as well as updates on Parliamentary activity as the Welfare and Work Bill continues its way through the Lords.
If you are a Homeless Link member and want to keep updated about our policy work, you can also join our policy network.
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Head of policy and communications
Helen currently job shares her role with Caroline Bernard, jointly overseeing Homeless Link’s policy, research, information and communications team.
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