Changes to funding and policy in housing could threaten the existence of essential homelessness organisations, housing experts from Middlesex University are warning.
Speaking at a seminar in central London on homelessness next Thursday (27 January), Dr Erin Sanders, of Middlesex University’s Social Policy Research Centre, will echo the concerns of many in the field who are worried about the future of third sector organisations, which offer vital services to vulnerable people.
She said: “We will be discussing whether the move towards commissioning and the localism agenda could spell the end of smaller homelessness organisations, which provide such a vital service, and how the new Government’s policy decisions on housing will affect homelessness in general.”
It is feared a by-product of the funding and decision making powers devolved from central to local government by the focus on localism could be the disappearance of smaller organisations which do valuable work but are unable to offer the economies of scale of the bigger providers of similar services.
Robert Brown, housing lecturer at Middlesex University, said: “The Big Society coupled with funding changes will mean a wholesale change in the way homelessness is dealt with in England.
“We’re already starting to see homeless acceptances in England starting to rise. Figures were coming down consistently quarter by quarter since the first quarter of 2004 when they stood at 33,820. They came down to 9,590 by the first quarter of 2010, but increased (for the first time since 2004) in the subsequent two quarters to 11,840.
“The clear signal from Government is to place much more reliance on provision of accommodation by the private rented sector and a change in the law included in the Localism Bill published in December 2010 enables a local authority to more readily discharge its homeless duties into the private sector. In many areas, notably London, this reliance on the private sector will be undermined by caps on Housing Benefit.”
As well as speakers from Middlesex University the seminar, which will be held at the New Horizons Youth centre in London, will hear from representatives from Birmingham University, Camden Borough Council, third sector organisations and an independent housing consultant.
Among the issues discussed will be homelessness prevention strategies, the Big Society and its implication for housing services and the case of homeless Eastern European migrants in London, with a general discussion on the policy of the previous Labour government and that of the Coalition.
Dr Sanders said: “There is a real need for debate and discussion around what will be major changes to the way homelessness is dealt with in this country. This seminar will provide an opportunity for those who work in housing in local authorities and housing associations or who do policy work or deliver services to join the debate.”
A Seminar on Homelessness – Current Need and Policy Directions will take place at the New Horizons Youth Centre, Chalton Street, London, NW1 1JR on Thursday 27 January. Anyone wishing to attend the free event is asked to contact Dr Sanders by 24 January on firstname.lastname@example.org