Thousand of people could be made homeless if government funding for local welfare schemes is removed, warns the Local Government Association (LGA).
New research from the LGA reveals that local welfare assistance schemes have helped a staggering 94,000 people at risk of becoming or remaining homeless.
Councils say the Government’s £172 million annual funding for these schemes provides ‘vital support’ to families at risk of losing their homes. Removal of the funding would mean crucial support may no longer be available to tens of thousands of people.
Over a quarter of local welfare spending was used to help people facing potential homelessness in 2013/14.
If councils are forced to reduce the amount they spend on local welfare schemes, due to Government funding cuts, an estimated 50,000 people would be at increased risk of life on the streets.
The Government’s decision to end funding for local welfare ‘safety net’ schemes in April would be an ‘expensive mistake’ and cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of pounds, warns the LGA.
LGA analysis shows that for every £1 spent on local welfare, more than £2 is saved by helping people avoid becoming homeless. According to the LGA, providing accommodation to those at increased risk of homelessness would cost taxpayers an additional £380 million per year.
Local welfare schemes were introduced in 2013 to replace crisis loans and community care grants. The LGA says the schemes have offered a helping hand to hundreds of thousands of people facing crisis or entering a time of transition. This includes people at risk of becoming homeless, providing food to struggling families and helping care leavers find accommodation for the very first time.
Crisis support and community grants have been funded by central Government since 1987. The final decision of whether or not to scrap funding in 2015/16 will be made by Government ministers next month.
Council leaders and charities are urging the Government to reconsider the decision to terminate funding for local welfare assistance schemes.
Local authorities have already seen their overall funding slashed by 40% since 2010 and argue they would unable subsidise local welfare support.
Cllr David Sparks, Chair of the LGA, said:
“Local welfare funding has been used by councils to provide crucial support to people facing personal crises in their lives and prevent problems from escalating.
“This money has helped keep a roof over the heads of thousands of people facing the threat of losing their homes. In doing so it has also saved the public purse many millions more which would have to have been spent finding new homes for people who lose their own.
“Government’s decision to withdraw this funding is an expensive mistake which will not only lead to a reduction in support for those who need it most, it will also cost taxpayers millions more in the long run.
“Local safety net schemes have been funded by government for almost 30 years. At a time when councils are tackling the biggest cuts in living memory, many local areas simply cannot afford to keep these schemes going if government withdraws the funding.
“Government should not renege from its responsibility to those in most need. It needs to review this decision and fully fund local welfare.”
Jon Sparkes, Chief Executive of the housing charity Crisis, said:
“For people facing or trying to escape homelessness, Local Welfare Assistance can be the final safety net – a small amount of money that makes a huge difference at a time of crisis.
“Today’s report clearly shows the damage that will be done if this funding is cut. On top of the human cost of homelessness, it makes absolutely no economic sense.
“Homelessness shatters lives and it is hugely expensive for the state to pick up the pieces. We stand alongside the LGA and others in urging the Government to rethink its decision to cut this vital lifeline.”
Source – Welfare Weekly, 29 Jan 2015
A huge restructure of Northumbria Police will see more than 400 jobs go and police stations closed as part of ongoing measures to save a total of £104m in response to “relentless” Government funding cuts.
The force will lose 230 members of staff – some by voluntary or compulsory redundancy – and reduce its number of senior officers by 200, through ‘natural turnover’.
They will also close “expensive” police stations, and reduce the number of area commands from six to three.
The restructure plans were announced last night as it was revealed that Northumbria Police has to save an additional £46m by March 2017, having already delivered £58m of savings since the start of the Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review in 2010.
Police and Crime Commissioner, Vera Baird, branded the cuts “unfair” but promised to protect frontline services working in neighbourhoods throughout the region.
> What does that mean ? We still wont see the coppers we already never see, unless speeding past in a car ?
She said: “The Government cuts are relentless and unfair. They impact far more heavily on our police service than on many others. The Chief Constable and I are very committed to maintaining the number of police officers and staff working in our neighbourhoods.
“To achieve this we need to do things differently, use technology more effectively and work from different buildings that are cheaper to run.”
The proposals, which the force stress are in the early stages, will see some “outdated” police stations closed and Neighbourhood Policing Teams relocated to bases within the communities they serve in shared accommodation facilities such as leisure centres.
> A plastic plod in the front of a supermarket, strictly 9-5, and able only to refer you to the police’s website, no doubt
However, a spokeswoman for Northumbria said that no police buildings will close until suitable new locations have been found.
Mrs Baird added: “We will relocate Neighbourhood Policing Teams to bases in the local community, usually shared with other services. We are currently doing this in North Tyneside where we are proposing to have police in the White Swan Centre at Killingworth following public consultation, rather than in an outdated, expensive-to-maintain police station in Forest Hall.
“We are keen to make further savings by relocating other neighbourhood policing teams into the communities that they serve, as this is what local policing is all about. However, we guarantee no police services will be relocated until we have found accessible bases within the community for neighbourhood teams to work from and they are working well.
“I am conscious that local people are feeling the effects of the economic downturn very acutely in our region. We have managed to protect frontline numbers and deliver the savings needed without the public having to pay more.”
> You’d never guess she used to be an MP, would you ?
Another change in the way Northumbria Police operate will be the down-sizing of the current six area commands – Newcastle, Gateshead, North Tyneside, South Tyneside, Northumberland and Sunderland – to three.
These will cover existing local authority areas coming under North, Central and South. North will cover North Tyneside and Northumberland, Central will serve Newcastle and Gateshead and South will cover Sunderland and South Tyneside.
> With the possible closure of Sunderland’s city centre Gilbridge police station being mooted – to go with the probable closure of the city centre fire station. How long before someone decides the city doesn’t really need a hospital either ?
The force has said it has made every effort to safeguard the services the public say they value most, which is visible policing in their communities.
> Invisible policing, more like ! Otherwise only seen when there’s a football match on.
The proposed changes, which won’t see any increase in council tax, will not reduce the service to the public nor impact on the force’s ability to reduce crime and disorder, according to Northumbria Police.
> Truth is, the region is never going to be a potential Tory electoral gain (Hexham aside), so why should anyone in government really care what happens here ?
On the other hand, it’s safe Labour seats, so they don’t appear to feel the need to stand up for us either – they take it for granted that they’ll get voted back whatever happens.
Talk about being between a rock and a hard place !
Perhaps, should Scotland go independant, they might consider extending the border down to the Tees…
Source – Newcastle Journal, Sunderland Echo, 09 Jan 2014