COUNTY COUNCIL BUDGET: Cuts will have ‘devastating effects’ on homelessness

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‘Devastating, unfair and catastrophic’ spending proposals would close nearly all the services to tackle and prevent homelessness in Nottinghamshire, a charity has warned.

If implemented, these plans would leave thousands of the county’s most vulnerable people without the help they need.

This is the bleak prediction by Framework on considering the extent of the funding cuts proposed by Nottinghamshire County Council.

In its initial budget proposals for the three years from April 2014, the council has outlined plans that would result in the closure of all emergency and supported housing for homeless people in the county.

They would also withdraw funding from community-based support for vulnerable people living in their own tenancies, and for crisis prevention work to avoid homelessness.

Among those affected would be the 6,200 people from the seven Nottinghamshire boroughs and districts whom Framework assists each year.

In the year to March 2013, 4,235 of these individuals used the following services, all of which are now threatened with closure:

* All emergency accommodation units for people in the County who have nowhere else to go - at Sherwood Street in Mansfield, Russell House in Newark, Potter Street in Worksop and Elizabeth House in Gedling.

* All specialist supported housing that helps people with drug and alcohol problems and those leaving prison.

* All supported move-on flats that facilitate sustainable resettlement.

* Almost all of the support services that assist vulnerable people in their own homes, including all crisis and homelessness prevention work.

Framework’s chief executive Andrew Redfern said: “These devastating cuts are just the latest in a series of disproportionate responses to the pressure on local authority finances.

“They are unfair in targeting the very people who need help the most and are least able to look after themselves. Their impact would be catastrophic not just because they would wipe out services but also because no alternative provision exists. The most vulnerable people in the community would be cast adrift without even a lifeline. The council must think again.”

The county council’s budget for housing-related support has been cut repeatedly since 2004 when it was £27.3 million per annum. The most recent reduction, implemented in the past three years, brought the figure down to £12.1 million per annum. The current proposals, which are subject to consultation, involve a further reduction to £7.9 million, most of the latter being ring-fenced to meet statutory requirements.

As a result, Framework’s funding, which has already been reduced from nearly £7 million per annum to just under £4.5 million, would fall by another £3.5 million – an overall cut of 85 per cent. Having managed the earlier cuts through redundancies and service re-structuring, Framework says it can no longer bridge the gap.

Mr Redfern added: “With so much taken already from this vital budget, we had hoped that the most vulnerable people might be protected this time round. The Council’s previous decisions have stretched our services to the limit, and these proposals would finish them off. There is no way to absorb another disproportionate cut while continuing to assist 6,200 of the most vulnerable people in Nottinghamshire.

“Most of the services under threat were developed in partnership with the council – some at their behest. If the council is now proposing to abandon these front-line services I shudder to think of the impact on the thousands of people who rely on them. Rough sleeping will increase sharply. So will the rate of failed tenancies and the numbers becoming homeless.

“Most public services – for instance public health, hospitals, adult social care and criminal justice, will also feel the impact. Borough and district councils, who are legally responsible for helping homeless people, will also be burdened with many additional costs. All will have to deal with many more challenging cases that stretch their time and resources.

“The saving to the council would be less than three quarters of one per cent of its proposed budget. All the evidence shows that the cost to the taxpayer would be much greater than this. The cost in the lives of those directly affected would be higher still.”

“There is nothing strategic about what is being proposed here. It’s not a matter of closing one service and replacing it with another. Getting rid of both homelessness prevention and emergency accommodation is like closing GP surgeries, walk-in centres and accident & emergency departments all at the same time. I am unwilling to believe that the council can’t afford what amounts to less than one per cent of its remaining budget to assist Nottinghamshire’s most vulnerable people.”

Between now and 17th January, Nottinghamshire County Council is consulting on these proposals. Framework is asking everyone who cares about the problems faced by homeless and vulnerable people to visit: www.nottinghamshire.gov.uk to have their say.