Homelessness cut is the deepest

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Homelessness will inevitably increase across Manchester as hundreds of supported housing units look set to close in the latest round of “savage” cuts to hit the region.

Manchester Council leader Sir Richard Leese described the £8.6 million reduction in the £35.8 million Supporting People grant – provided by central government to keep the city’s most vulnerable residents in their own homes – as “the worst” of a huge range of cuts announced by the authority last Monday.

The original proposed cut of 35 per cent, or £12.6 million, would have closed 300 supported housing units and removed tenancy support from 900 people.

Future of services

To avoid the “serious consequences” of such a huge reduction, the authority plans to top up the grant with £4 million of its own cash, reducing the cut to £8.6 million, and protecting services for the elderly, frail and disabled.

Lloyd: "huge assault"

Supporting People services work with 14,000 people across Manchester, including those with mental health issues, homeless families, young care leavers, people with drug and alcohol issues, women and children fleeing domestic violence, and ex-offenders.

One service provider said it expected the axe to fall primarily on homelessness services. None have yet been given any details as to where cuts will be made.

The Salvation Army told The Big Issue in the North that recipients of the Supporting People grant will be meeting the council over the next two months to work out the future of their services. Homelessness charities across the city all agreed that the numbers of rough sleepers would increase.

Barbara Squirrel, service manager at the Counted In outreach service, said: “You can’t take such a huge cut and not have some impact. There will be more rough sleepers nationally because of these Supporting People cuts.

“Supporting housing is very important for us – that is where we get people accommodated.”

Paul Wenham, chief executive of the Mustard Tree, said: “With the pressure on social housing,

I can’t see how homelessness wouldn’t increase. My concern is that it will increase pressure on organisations like ours.”

Homelessness increase

Amanda Croome, co-ordinator at the Booth Centre, said: “We are also concerned about the general changes in housing benefit legislation and that both these factors together will result in an increase in homelessness.

“The government have done their own impact assessment and they’ve acknowledged themselves that homelessness will increase.”

Judith Crowther, regional director of Riverside ECHG housing association – which provides supported housing for over 200 people in Manchester – said: “We are committed to carrying on providing our services, but we are going to have to wait and see how we will be affected.”

Shapps: "cynical move"

Manchester Central MP Tony Lloyd said: “It’s hard to see how it wouldn’t increase homelessness. The problem is when you look at all these cuts, they accumulate to amount to a huge assault on those who ought to be able to rely on society for general support.”

Top-up cash

Although the government claims that, with top-up cash from a transition fund, no authority faces a cut of more than 8.9 per cent, Manchester insists it is facing a 25 per cent funding reduction over the next two years. It is shedding almost one in five of its workforce.

According to local government minister Grant Shapps, the Supporting People budget is only being cut by 12 per cent over four years. Yet some councils have received a settlement reduction of over 60 per cent. Critics have said he has failed to understand the complex formulae by which local government funding is calculated.

Shapps accused Manchester’s cuts programme of being a “cynical move”, which is intentionally cutting frontline services and playing politics with people lives.”

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