Salvation Army Policy Brief on Homelessness

If homelessness is an issue that concerns you, do give SA's policy brief a read....

Policy Brief

Homelessness: An overview of The Salvation Army’s upcoming campaign on support funding for homelessness services

The Salvation Army’s supported housing services for people with experience of homelessness are funded through a combination of means. Housing benefit is used to help pay for the housing costs (rent and service charges, for example), whilst funding from local authorities (usually in the form of a commissioned housing-related support contract) is used to help pay for the costs of the daily support received by people living at the service. Building on the success of its recent campaign to ensure that housing benefit continues to help pay for supported housing’s housing costs, The Salvation Army is now in the process of developing a new campaign to promote the need for sustainable levels of support funding at both a national and local level. In order to provide the best possible support to residents at our services and that they are able to achieve their aims aspirations, it is vital that appropriate levels of funding are made available.

Background: In recent years, local authorities have seen their overall levels of grant funding reduced, whilst at the same time demand for their services has increased. One consequence of this is that funding has had to be diverted from ‘non-essential’ to ‘essential’ services. An example of this within local authorities’ homelessness services is the increasing amounts spent on temporary accommodation. Between 2010-11 and 2015-16, spending on temporary accommodation by local authorities rose by 39% from £606m to £845m. As local authorities are legally obligated to provide temporary accommodation to households that are statutorily homeless, spending has had to increase in line with demand. As of 201516, a third of all local authority spending on housing services was allocated to temporary accommodation. In order to meet the increasing costs of temporary accommodation, local authorities have had to reallocate funding from others sources. Between 2010-11 and 2015-16, local authorities reduced their spending on other housing services by £998m. The vast majority of this reduction in spending has come from the Supporting People programme. Between 2003 and 2009, the Supporting People programme was a ring-fenced funding stream that local authorities could use to pay for housing-related support services, including supported housing services for people with experience of homelessness. A significant proportion of the services funded by the Supporting People programme are dedicated to accommodating and supporting people who are nonstatutorily homeless. This means that although people are considered to be legally homeless, local authorities are not under a legal obligation to provide housing or support to prevent or relive their homelessness. However, in 2009 the Supporting People programme’s funding ring-fence was removed. This meant that the money, which had previously been used exclusively to fund housing-related support services, could now be spent elsewhere. Following the removal of the former Supporting People programme’s ringfence, spending by local authorities on housing-related support services has reduced significantly. In 2017, the National Audit Officer reported that since 2010-11, spending on the Supporting People programme had fallen by 59% from £1.44bn to £588m. A significant proportion of this reduction in spending will have been reallocated to help pay for temporary accommodation.

Impact: According to official statistics, since 2010 the number of people sleeping rough has increased by 165%. Over the same period, the number of accommodation-based placements for people with experience of homelessness within supported housing services has fallen by 19% from 42,655 to 34,497. Although it is
impossible to say with absolute certainty, there is little doubt that this reduction in the number of placements is closely associated with the reduction in spending by local authorities on the Supporting People programme. This in turn has impacted on people’s ability to seek help to prevent and relive their homelessness. In its most recent annual review, Homeless Link reported that the most commonly reported reason for a service turning away potential referrals was a lack of service capacity. In response to this finding, Homeless Link concluded that: “the [overall] reduction in bed spaces [across the supported housing sector], and the rate of capacity-based refusals among responding providers, indicates that the needs of some single homeless people may be not be met by the existing support system.” The experiences of The Salvation Army at a local level mirror these national findings. For example, The Salvation Army now operates a number of supporting housing services where the local authorities have reduced their spending on the Supporting People programme to zero. Although The Salvation Army has attempted to partly replace this lost funding through other charitable sources, the services have had to change in fundamental ways. With funding from the Supporting People programme, these services would previously have been able to accommodate and support people with complex levels of need. By contrast, now that funding from the Supporting People programme has been removed, the services can only safely and sustainably accommodate people with low levels of need. As a consequence, it is highly likely that the existing support systems in these areas will be far less able to meet the needs of people with experience of sustained and recurrent periods of rough sleeping.

Housing First: Housing First has attracted a lot of attention as part of a potential solution to the issue of rough sleeping. As part of a wider move towards a system of housing-led interventions, the Ministry for Home, Communities and Local Government recently funded a £30m Housing First pilot in Manchester, Liverpool and the West Midlands Combined Authority. The Salvation Army currently operates Housing First services in Cardiff, Merthyr Tydfil, and Glasgow. However, as with other forms of supported housing, the success of Housing First is largely dependent on the provision of adequate support funding. As a model offering support from a team of specialist support workers who can be contacted 24/7, the support costs involved in funding Housing First are often in excess of other forms of supported housing. This is borne out by The Salvation Army’s experiences in Cardiff, Merthyr Tydfil and Glasgow, which suggest that high levels of investment are required to ensure that services are staffed appropriately and that the correct level of specialist support is provided to tenants. Without adequate levels of support funding, local authorities will be unable to develop sustainable systems of support for people with experience of homelessness, which incorporate a variety of options, including Housing First. For further information about how The Salvation Army’s campaign is developing, please contact Ian Geary: [email protected]


The Salvation Army Public Affairs Unit 101 Newington Causeway London SE1 6BN
02073 674551 [email protected]

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