Councils say homelessness act not adequately funded

4 Apr 19

Up to 67% of councils feel they lack the funding to meet new duties to tackle homelessness, analysis has found.

Urban councils in particular are feeling the strain with 86% suggesting the £72.7m handed down from government to fund extra responsibilities is not enough, according to a survey by the New Local Government Network think-tank.

Improved advice about homelessness, personalised housing plans and extending the timeframe that councils help people facing homelessness were just some of the duties  implemented under the Homelessness Reduction Act this time last year.

But the NLGN Leadership Index survey of 188 council leaders, chief executives and mayors across the UK found that the majority of councils were not coping with the duties due to funding constraints.

Just 19% of respondents felt they had adequate funding to carry out requirements under the housing revenue account.

Some 41% of councils believe they will be able to eradicate rough sleeping by 2027 – which is one of the government’s manifesto commitments.

Fifty-eight per cent  said they thought it was likely or very likely that they could halve rough sleeping by 2022 which is another Conservative Party commitment.

Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government figures from January 2019 found show a 165% increase of rough sleepers in England since 2010.

Feedback from council chiefs cited concerns that the £72.7m funding will only last until 2020, with no guarantee beyond that date. One respondent added: “The act is a very positive looking sticking plaster.”

The survey also found that 65% of respondents thought universal credit has lead to an increase in homelessness in their area – this number rises to 78% among London and metropolitan borough councils.

Just 2.4% thought the policy had resulted in a decrease in homelessness, according to the survey.

The benefit has been dogged by problems such as delayed payments and people experiencing financial hardship when moving onto the new system.

Adam Lent, the director of the NLGN, said: “The government’s aspiration to shift towards prevention is admirable but this survey shows that without sustained, long-term funding of local government it will make that goal much harder and probably impossible to achieve.

“There is an urgent need for government to review current funding for homelessness, particularly in the long-term, and ensure its policy aims marry with the resources available to local authorities across the UK”.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has been contacted.

Read Neil Merrick’s report for PF on how council’s are coping with new responsibilities under the Homelessness Reduction Act.

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