Cuts to homeless support in Dacorum could be ‘devastating’

Homeless stock pic

Homeless stock pic

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Homeless support services in Dacorum could be ‘devastated’ if proposed funding cuts get the green light.

Currently, Herts County Council spend £114,168 on the DENS rent guarantee scheme, £134,419 on DENS’ accommodation and £27,402 on Druglink’s temporary accommodation scheme.

But a report from the council’s director of health and community services Frances Heathcote shows that a £613,000 saving could be made in 2016/17 by not renewing contracts and withdrawing subsidies – and this could rise to £1.3m in 2017/18.

The recommendation is that organisations like DENS in Hemel Hempstead, who helped 695 homeless people last year, cut their back office costs by 15 per cent.

A staff member from DENS night shelter The Elms said: “It would be devastating to the lives of our service users if we were to lose any funding, as not only would it threaten our ability to provide them the things they’re focused on right now – having a roof over their head, a bed and something to eat – it would diminish their chances of moving forward in their lives.

“This could mean the loss of additional support on employment and finding their own place to live.”

Lib Dem opposition councillor Ron Tindall, who serves the St Paul’s ward in Hemel, said: “The homeless in our society are not voters, they often exist in the twilight of our communities, isolated, and difficult to reach.

“But it is a measure of a civilised society how we care for those less fortunate than ourselves.

“Many have mental health issues or learning difficulties and I do find it disappointing that shortly before the homeless motion was debated, the council passed unanimously a motion on the need to give greater attention to mental health.

“The clear problem with the proposals is the request for a cut of 15 per cent in back office costs without reducing the current numbers of people supported.

“Many​ charities run on less than 15 per cent overheads, which could leave over 100 homeless people unsupported.”

A county council spokesman said: “Given the financial challenges facing the council in the medium term, services like this one must be considered for budget reductions so that we can focus our remaining resources on core statutory social services.

“The planned savings avoid proposing reductions to housing support services where the result would be an increase to care services elsewhere – for example for people with learning disabilities or reducing services for people at risk of domestic abuse.

“The reductions focus on services where contracts are ending, where existing subsidies can be picked up by other organisations or by asking providers to make back office savings.

“Single homeless persons’ schemes are being offered a one year extension beyond when current contract ends in March 2017, providing they accept a 15 per cent reduction in the contract value to commence from January 1, 2017.

“It is expected that schemes maintain the current numbers of people supported and achieve this saving through efficiencies in their back office.

“If this cannot be achieved, we will discuss the situation with individual services.

“If all reductions are achieved, this would lead to quarter four savings of 2016/17 of £124,700 and £498,798 for 2017/18.”