A vicious cut buried in this year’s budget document makes a mockery of George Osborne’s pledge of more money for homelessness charities.
The Budget Red Book confirms that from 2017 additional funding in the housing benefit system for homeless people’s hostels and women’s refuges will be scrapped completely from April 2017. Payments to cover rents in the supported housing sector will be reduced to the Local Housing Allowance rate for that area – which can be less than £50 a week for those under 35 in some parts of the UK.
This is the culmination of a long-running row which began way back in 2012 when bungling toff Lord Fraud announced moves which would lead to the closure of every homelessness shelter and refuge in the UK. The DWP soon backtracked on these plans and the homelessness industry slipped into collective denial until last year when it was re-announced that supported housing rents will be capped from 2016.
After unanimous protests from homelessness and domestic violence charities the government appeared to back down again, putting back the change for one year and announcing a review of funding for supported housing. Today George Osborne pre-empted that review and – with a sneaky bribe which will no doubt go to the largest and most obedient homelessness charities – has condemned huge numbers of the poorest and most marginalised people to street homelessness.
Funding supported housing through the benefits system allowed those providing that housing to use their own expertise and experience in helping to rebuild often shattered lives. Now they will be expected to go cap in hand to the government, and funding will be directed at those organisations prepared to kow-tow to government policies, such as workfare, benefit sanctions, deportations and compulsory happiness lessons.
The budget documents ominously confirm that there will still be a review of the supported housing sector before the cut takes place. We’ve just seen what these look like after the recent consultation into disability benefits. Almost every response from disabled people and charities was completely ignored and the government did as they chose – which was cut vital disability benefits for over 600,000 people.
The entire homelessness sector, along with women’s refuges, young people’s hostels and the wide range of other supported housing is now on death row. Homelessness charities have long faced criticism for not fighting for homeless people and instead pursuing petty obsessions about the price of strong lager, beggars or trying to close down soup runs. Now they are fighting for their own futures. It will take more than petitions, whining and cosy meetings with ministers as the so-called big players negotiate their own survival, to save the homelessness industry. It will mean homelessness organisations getting out on the streets with homeless people, tenants, benefit claimants and all those facing housing insecurity, It may mean forgoing charitable status to fight this government – hardly a controversial arrangement, neither Amnesty or Greenpeace are charities. And most of all it will mean a confrontational, disruptive and ferocious movement to drive this current crop of Tory toffs into the fucking sea. Then we can have their houses.
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