Government Budget Cuts for Supported Housing putting Vulnerable People at Risk.
What are the threats to supported housing in the UK?
Ever since the last UK election, local governments have been forced to cut their supported housing budgets year on year. 2014 sees the lowest level of funding for such services seen this century – with alarming predictions for vulnerable people coming from those most involved in their care.
Some groups are protected by law and there is a duty to provide statutory care (older people, those receiving NHS care for mental health problems and those with learning difficulties) but there is a separate funding stream called ‘Supporting People’ which funds supported housing and related services for other vulnerable populations such as those facing eviction and homelessness, young parents, ex-offenders, those suffering domestic violence or problems with addiction. It is this stream that is facing huge cuts again this year.
How will this affect vulnerable people?
A noticeable difference is a dramatic reduction in the number of wardens working to support those living in community housing. Wardens provide help in understanding bills and benefits, provide regular visits or phone calls, assist with arranging medical appointments and arrange group social activities and shopping opportunities. Charities fear that this could lead to increased debt problems, crime and homeless as well as vastly increasing the number of people suffering loneliness and social isolation.
Devon County Council are being particularly vocal in their fight against these cuts (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-devon-27849772) as they are being forced to close day centres and reduce community transport services. Elsewhere, The Guardian reports that in Nottinghamshire, hostels and specialist housing support services are being decommissioned (http://www.theguardian.com/society/patrick-butler-cuts-blog/2013/nov/22/homlessness-cuts-the-slow-paingul-demise-of-supported-housing).
In a climate in which debt and homelessness is growing, mental health services are being reduced and the population is aging, cuts to supported housing budgets will cause even more problems in the future. It is a sector that should be growing, not shrinking.