Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Local authorities are hampering efforts to keep people off the streets, charities claim

Councils lock away housing crisis funds

The scrapping of a scheme to provide emergency loans to vulnerable people is worsening homelessness, charities have warned.

Since 1 April people can no longer apply for ‘crisis loans’, which were administered by job centres for essential costs in an emergency.

The government has since handed a £178.2 million fund for crisis loans and community care grants to local authorities, which have replaced crisis loans with their own discretionary schemes.

Homelessness charities, including the London mayor’s No Second Night Out scheme - which aims to stop people sleeping a second night on the streets - used these loans to help pay for deposits and rent advances when securing homeless people private sector accommodation. But since the change charities have found it almost impossible to secure the replacement emergency loans from councils, hampering their efforts to get people off the streets.

Tommy Cloherty, head of homelessness services at charity Hope Worldwide, said he ‘absolutely’ expected this to increase homelessness. ‘There are people who have already missed out on opportunities because they have not been able to provide rent in advance.’

Mr Cloherty said it was a particular problem in London because rents were so high and landlords can ‘cherry pick’ tenants.

Petra Salva, director of the London NSNO scheme, said her staff used to be able to secure crisis loans for three quarters of its service users in the 34-bed spaces it has separate from its two ‘hubs’, usually within a couple of days. Since April it has not managed to secure a single loan.

She said councils refuse loans suggesting alternatives such as budgeting loans - but these take weeks to secure from Jobcentre Plus, by which time a homeless person will have lost a property.

Duncan Shrubsole, director of homelessness charity Crisis, said the loans ‘can make the difference between someone getting a roof over their head or sleeping on the streets’.

‘Ultimately the government needs to rethink this and reintroduce a clear national framework,’ he added.

A spokesperson for umbrella body London Councils acknowledged that since April some clients in need of emergency help had not received the correct advice from Jobcentre Plus: ‘This has led to an increase in referrals and approaches to councils, which are not always able to provide the type of assistance these clients need.’

A spokesperson from the Department for Work and Pensions said: ‘Crisis loans were previously too complex, over-centralised and poorly targeted.’

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Readers' comments (9)

  • The situation is not that simple as portrayed here! More interesting news today and I don’t know why Inside Housing have not picked up on this is that after consultation government is bring forward legislation that those on 60K+ living in social accommodation can be charged market rent for their social property.

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  • Peter Wicks

    The whole scheme smells worse than Billingsgate fish market, which on reflection is par for the cause for this obnoxious government...

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  • This tory led government is a shambles ,letting down the most vulnerable .Callous to the extreme and so cruel .Since coming to power they have made the lives of the most poorest unbearable .They haven't stopped picking .Whilst the rich enjoy more tax cuts the poor it seems are carrying the biggest burden .
    People are finding themselves homeless through no fault of their own and now can't get any help.
    Why so much hate towards vulnerable people ? Absolutely brutal ,shocking and childish .Anyone can find themselves in these situations .I hope if labour comes to power in 2015 that they declare war on the wealthy the same way tories have declared war on the most neediest of us.

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  • Daedalus

    Brilliant idea david, declare war on the rich. If you are actively trying to find a strategy guaranteed to cause most harm to the economy as a whole and particularly the poor you have hit on it. Drive the rich and their businesses out of the country and have rocketing unemployment - sheer brilliance.

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  • DE - Suggest you Google "Beer drinking tax analogy"

    This will further underpin the valid point from Daedalus above...

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  • Daedlous...what a load of dribble: you still believe in the 'trickle down' economic stupitity of tories only in this case we should all be so luckly to have a minimum wage job at the largesse of the rich...give us a break!

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  • michael barratt

    While David Cameron and family are enjoying four holiday destinations this summer, with accommodation in one location costing £11,000 for the week and Nick Clegg enjoying a merely two holidays this year. Others appear to be much less fortunate. It this what Cameron meant by sharing the economic pain? And was the sorry economic plight the country finds itself in caused by the homeless, unemployed and disabled?

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  • Well I am not surprised that local councils are failing to deliver a well funded scheme.

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  • This has got very little to do with Central Government other than them deciding to 'de-centralise' the provision. Each Local Authority, many of which are Labour run decide on their own criteria for hosuing support and they could quite easily provide assiatance under their Local Welfare Provision scheme!

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