Housing leaders warn vulnerable people at risk as support budgets cut
Housing leaders in the UK are warning that services to vulnerable people will be reduced from 1 April, meaning loss of support for elderly, young and marginalised people.
Housing professionals are gearing up to deal with the negative impacts of cuts to local supported housing budgets, which respondents to a new survey estimate at between 10 and 50 per cent.
Members of the Chartered Institute of Housing’s (CIH) UK Housing Panel, a group of 300 housing experts, say that they are already taking action to soften the blow, for example reducing staff hours or pay, seeking alternative sources of funding and working more closely in partnership with other providers. However many warn that schemes could close with the loss of important services that promote independence and prevent the need for more costly health and care services. In particular, the experts warned about the loss of homelessness services and reductions to the support for older people.
UK Housing Panel members were asked what changes they expected to see to spending on housing-related support services in 2011-2012 and beyond. 60 per cent of respondents predicted service reductions and 18 per cent gave a figure of between 10 and 50 per cent cuts in the first year.
When asked what the impact would be of the changes, over one quarter (27 per cent) said that there would be service reductions, 17 per cent predicted lower tenancy sustainability and increased homelessness and 15 per cent predicted staff reductions. A further eight per cent said they would re-tender or restructure services.
Panel members were asked how they planned to mitigate any negative impacts of the changes to funding. 13 per cent said they would review service provision, 10 per cent said they would focus on increased partnership and joint working, and the same number planned to seek alternative funding sources. Other planned actions included organisational restructuring, reviewing the clients targeted or accepted by the services and increasing charges to front-line service users.
Domini Gunn, who will join CIH in April as Director of Public Health and Vulnerable Communities, said: “We are beginning to see a clearer picture of the pressure that housing support services are under as they work with significantly lower budgets and try to protect their most vulnerable tenants.
“Housing support work is a vital link in the chain that helps people who need additional help to live independently and can often save much higher hospital and care costs in the long term. It is very encouraging to see so many creative and innovative responses to budget cuts, but the key will be to monitor the impact of the changes over time and maintain a focus on the vulnerable people who are affected.”