Monday, 27 April 2015

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’.

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