Tuesday, 02 September 2014

Loss of experienced staff will hinder quality of support, report warns

Service standards at risk in face of funding cutbacks

Local authorities and charities are losing experienced staff which is putting ‘crucial relationships’ at risk and leading to poor-quality homelessness services, according to new research.

In a report published today, Who is supporting people now?, umbrella body Homeless Link has warned that providers will not be able to sustain services in the face of more cuts to Supporting People funding and the potential impact of welfare reforms.

The research, based on a series of interviews with local authorities and providers across seven areas of England, found that reduced pay among support workers as a result of the cuts could lead to poor judgement and poor safeguarding so that providers’ standards fall.

The report states that councils restructuring housing-related support teams risk losing people with commissioning experience who can maintain quality standards.

It also found that nearly five out of 10 homelessness services have had their funding cut this financial year by an average of 17 per cent.

Around 4,000 beds for homeless people have been lost since the ring fence preventing SP funds being spent on other services was removed in 2009, the report adds, while the number of people applying for help with homelessness has increased by a fifth.

The government cut the national SP budget by around 12 per cent in its October 2010 spending review. But many councils have imposed deeper cuts on the funding to offset larger reductions elsewhere.

The report highlights several key risks including further cuts to funding which will push providers ‘beyond the point of financial viability’. It adds that service quality could decline because councils are not monitoring standards effectively.

The warnings come just weeks after Inside Housing revealed Derby Council is consulting on the biggest ever cut to a council SP budget.

Derby is considering an extra £2 million cut, bringing the total reduction to 83 per cent from £9.9 million this year to £1.7 million in 2014/15.

Gillian Sewell, chief executive of YMCA Derbyshire, has written to prime minister David Cameron warning the cut would be ‘catastrophic’.

Rick Henderson, chief executive of Homeless Link, described the proposals as ‘outrageous’.

Readers' comments (12)

  • Rick Campbell

    Service standards are also at risk if involved tenants don't operate the scrutiny and service improvement mechanisms properly.

    Anecdotal evidence suggests that 'unhealthy relationships' develop when there's too much cosying up between tenants and paid professionals -- and, in no way, is it always the tenants who become 'star-struck'.

    Frankness and honesty re a must IF meaningful engagement is to take place AND the best services and standards of service are to be in place and delivered.

    Many paid professionals thankfully still retain the ethic that 'it's all about tenants not the salary (pitiful that it may be)'.

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  • Joe Halewood

    Everything above was predicted 9 years ago when local councils began a strive foir cuts for cuts sake in SP and then reaffirmed over 4 years ago when the SP ringfence removal was confirmed.

    Councils systematically deprofessionalised and deskilled support by maintaining that support delivery was largely generic - it didnt matter whether support need or client need was homelessness, DV, MH, drug, akcohol etc - it was largely the same support needed and wanted. Hence the 'monkeys' needed to deliver support in councils views could and should be paid peanuts.

    The only reason any experience still exists in support is because so many committed and dedicated staff see it as a vocation and they havent bug***d off to stack shelves in Tesco which would pay more. Well of course im excepting the services run by councils themselves which have continued to be funded in SP by, oh yes, the same council.

    4000 homeless beds gone
    Homelessness rising
    Bedroom tax leading to homelessness
    Overall Benefit Cap leading to homelessness
    Local governmenf facing a £400m increase in THEIR HB costs due to homelessness
    LHA rising by just a quarter of inflation and at about 15% of likely rent rises

    Anyone see what is going to happen?

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  • Alex Brown

    Two very valid comments so far, Rick is it time we looked at independant scrutiny, I look at your HA you look at mine? Might get some better results (from our point of view anyway).
    Joe you are spot on with your assessment of the warnings we have given over the years. But one question I haven't heard asked and therefore not answered is what happens to those made homeless through benefit cap? Assuming that judges will grant possession where the debt is through government decree, which is not at all certain, who will take on a large family in a large property who can only pay £5.00 per week in rent? PRS will not and should not, Housing Associations because their business plans would fall apart and they would be in trouble with the regulator. The council? Many don't own stock but those who do is it a good use of their Council Tax to subsidise DWP?

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  • Rick Campbell

    ^^^ like ^^^

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  • Surprising we haven't had another round of riots yet. Although at this rate everyone will be out on the streets anyway just trying to get some sleep. Maybe the McDonalds burning will keep them warm for a night.

    I do feel bad for the supporting staff at councils, stuck between offering help to those in need in the community, or helping keep food on the table for their own families!

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  • Alex Brown

    As I commented yesterday this cost will fall on councils who retain a legal responsibility for any family that is not intentionally homeless. Guidance suggests that inability to pay is not intentionality. And the government will not want families literally on the streets.

    Everyone knows that the only way out is to rehouse these large families somewhere in the north where rents are much cheaper. Of course if the government introduces regional benefit levels......

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  • An absolute false economy. The Supporting People programme funded services that created savings elsewhere in social service departments, the NHS, probation and others. Cuts to the programme simply places an extra burden on more expensive statutory services. The economic savings are short term and the negative social impact of unmet needs for vulnerable client groups will , I believe, cost us much more in the future than any supposed savings now.

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  • Public services rest on having good people both staff and volunteers not always driven by salaries or other stuff. There is a need to make public services fresh and sexy, the scandals of course don't help and actually drive good staff away. How do we encourage good new staff and keep good staff in public type services?

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  • I left my job in housing related support last year after 8 years of dedicated service.
    This was because of the never feeling like i had any job security (2 tupe's), SP outcome monitoring and payment by results of which staff were told if they didn't tick all their boxes they would lose their jobs as they wouldn't get the funding payment.

    My wages also reduced by £4000 over the years, despite the tupe and my workload more than doubled which left me unable to fulfill all my commitments to my clients and kept me awake at night.

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  • C'mon Sense

    This headline is a bit of a no-brainer "Car may stop moving if it runs out of petrol" kind of headline.

    Narra - please stop going on about how riots can solve the world's issues - it's a tad more complicated than that, and look at the after effect of the last ones in Birmingham and Tottenham where people lost their lives.

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