COUNTY COUNCIL BUDGET: Homelessness charity ‘dismayed’ by impending cuts

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Framework, the Nottinghamshire homelessness charity, says it is ‘shocked and dismayed’ by proposals to make further massive cuts to services for homeless and vulnerable people.

Hostels, supported housing, outreach and homelessness prevention work will all be affected if the current proposals are approved by Nottinghamshire County Council. Framework says that it has worked hard to manage the impact of previous cuts through service restructuring and pay cuts for staff at all levels. However, the charity has warned that it would not be possible to absorb a further round of cuts without closing vital services that change and save lives.

Councillors are discussing the budget plans prior to a public consultation which would commence on 13th November.

Framework, which supports around 9,500 individuals every year, could lose funding of up to £3.5 million per annum. It will ask members of the public to consider the impact at the front line, which it says would be devastating, and make their views known.

Chief executive Andrew Redfern said: “We are shocked and deeply dismayed by these proposals, which were communicated to us late on Tuesday afternoon. Once again the council seems to be targeting its cuts on those who can least afford to bear them. We work with some of the most vulnerable people in the community – cases that statutory services reject because their needs are too complex for them to deal with.

“Clearly the council has a serious problem to solve. But the amount of money involved here is a tiny proportion, less than one per cent of its remaining budget.

“Disproportionate cuts have already been applied to services for homeless and vulnerable people, and the time has come to look elsewhere. The implication of the proposals is that the most excluded people are the lowest priority, and we do not accept that.

“We will now take some time to fully assess the impact of these proposals on rough sleepers and others in emergency housing need, if the cuts go ahead. As far as we can tell the plan is it leave them with nowhere to go. This is unacceptable. So is the withdrawal of support from people with alcohol, drug and mental health problems. And the cessation of prevention work will only exacerbate the pressure on statutory services, increasing demand and raising the costs.

“I will seek an urgent meeting with the leader of the county council to make him fully aware of the impact that these cuts would have on thousands of very needy people. I will remind him of the resources that central Government has made available for local authorities to support these people, and ask him to think again.”

The county council is facing a shortfall of £154 million over the next three years. The consultation will inform a decision to be taken by councillors early in the new year, on how to bridge the gap. Part of the council’s allocation from central Government is an amount for housing-related related support, previously known as Supporting People, which was ring-fenced for the purpose.

The withdrawal of the ring-fence means the Council is now free to spend the money as it chooses.

Framework continues to manage the impact of previous rounds of cuts on the front-line services it provider. It says that if the same services are targeted again, outright closures are inevitable. The charity will do everything possible to defend these front line services because alternatives do not exist.