Slashes to council budgets this year have meant that Housing Benefit has been drastically cut for many of the most vulnerable people and those who would have qualified for council housing are being turned down.
Other worrying measures, such as putting people in need of serious social support in mixed hostels and B&Bs, have been employed instead. People with complex needs are seeing the sharp end of these changes since councils have been forced to made tougher decisions on who they consider to be "intentionally homeless" or "deserving of longer-term accommodation".
Councils are not obliged to provide people with longer-term accommodation if they are considered "intentionally homeless". If the council suspects that someone may have absconded from 'suitable' housing without a good enough reason, they don't have to house individuals appropriately.
But there are many reasons that people leave so-called 'settled' accommodation. From the outside, a flat or house may look perfectly normal. But, behind closed doors, many damaging things may be going on - from emotional or physical violence, where the victim is too scared to speak out, unnoticed or unaddressed mental health issues, or troubling alcohol or drug use. Some of these reasons for leaving are very hard to prove - especially by the victim who has "intentionally left".
On release from prison, ex-offenders are usually treated as "intentionally homeless" if the individual fell into rent arrears because they were in prison. Unless people can get advice before they become entrenched in homelessness, it can take a long time to organise, or be entitled to, decent, settled accommodation that suits their needs, simply because of this law. It is obvious how homelessness, substance misuse and crime can become a sad way of life for people in need of housing and help to change their lives.
The powers-that-be don't always think long-term, and instead of funding bespoke supported housing units for ex-offenders, drug users, people with poor mental health, or domestic violence victims, such as those provided by specialist charities like DiversityInCare, they instead refer a client to a B&B for a night or so. While a roof over one's head is fundamental to life, so are the services that supported housing can provide a client who has ongoing issues.
Housing vulnerable people in specialist supported units is not much more expensive than renting them a council flat and the benefits speak for themselves. Financial savings are made in the long-term as clients with wrap-around support are more likely to cease an addiction, stay out of prison, train, access therapy, gain confidence, and get a job.
DiversityInCare's recent statistics from its specialist supported housing project:
Drug and/or alcohol use decreased by 50%
40% of residents regularly volunteered in the last six months
30% of residents completed one or more training programmes
20% of residents trained at Diploma Level 3
80% of residents did not re-offend in 12 months
Thousands of pounds, which might have been spent on B&B accommodation, substance- or violence-related hospital admissions, and re-imprisonment are saved when people are supported to heal and grow with specialist services and safe accommodation.
We are supposed to be a Big Society, so I would appeal to the public to support the work of specialist supported housing charities such as DiversityInCare, so that they can take care of the vulnerable in our society, who are further marginalised by government cuts. The specialist charities understand the issues facing their particular client groups more than anyone and know how to make our communities safer, healthier, richer, and more cohesive.
Image 1 courtesy of Prints_charming
Image 2 courtesy of Jamierodriguez37
Image 3 courtesy of hotblack
Image 4 courtesy of NDPetitt
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