Concerns have been raised that Norfolk County Council’s (NCC) latest round of proposed spending cuts could hit the most vulnerable and lead to an increase in the number of people sleeping on the streets.
NCC estimates that presently 11,000 people benefit from their £10 million yearly spend on housing related support services. However, plans are being discussed to cut this by over half, to £4.5m. There is widespread worry among local homelessness charities and councillors over the additional strain this might place on voluntary and other council provisions.
Tim Sweeting, the chief executive of the YMCA’s Norfolk branch said: “It’s about supporting people in terms of their safety and their security and helping them to rebuild their lives. That makes them less likely to become involved with the police, the criminal justice system and mental health services.”
The current budget is spread around a variety of services including commissioning support workers to assist adults and young people at risk of becoming homeless, providing hostel places and supporting those in sheltered housing.
Sweeting added: “we helped more than 100 people get back into work last year and we need all public agencies to be working together. When the county council takes a single agency approach, it knocks out of kilter what is a very finely balanced system.”
As part of their consultation, NCC said that due to ongoing budget cuts, “we are proposing to reduce the money we spend on housing related support services.” Earlier this year similar proposals to cut 40 per cent of the budget were shelved. Out of 1283 responses to its consultation, over 1000 registered disagreement.
NCC continued: “although members decided at that time not to take those proposals forward, the level of savings we need to make now means that we are having to take another look at the future of some of these services.” Since 2011, two separate funding reorganisations have already seen a total of over £5m slashed from housing support and connected services. Norwich City Council have carried a motion asking the County Council to reconsider the measures.Gail Harris, the deputy leader of Norwich City Council and cabinet member for housing warned against the plans.
She said that the support given to the homeless by housing providers was “at risk,” continuing to say “I do not use those words lightly or for sensationalist effect.” Consultation with service users and the public continues, with the results set to be published in Februrary 2017.