Established 2005 Registered Charity No. 1110656

Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

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Still Supporting People?

September 08 2010
Homeless charities warn of coming funding meltdown

Homeless charities and hostels across Birmingham have sent a worrying warning that the full effect of the withdrawal of council funding is not yet being felt.

Started in 2003, Birmingham City Council's Supporting People funding was awarded to those service providers in the city that offered support and accommodation to those who needed it most. But in August 2009, many of those providers were told they would have this vital money withdrawn, and in January it was largely stopped - now only four providers across the city receive this funding.

As a result, services have been reduced, shelters closed, and entire organisations have gone out of business. And despite this, many warn the full impact may not have yet been realised.

Mark Orbell, manager of St Anne's hostel on Moseley Street, said: "By Christmas there could be a real problem. Following the Supporting People withdrawal, hubs were set up where service users could stay for 28 days while they looked for something more permanent, but there have been people staying in them for six months now. Supporting People funding made a tremendous difference, providing 30 per cent of our funding for resettlement benefits, but after its withdrawal, we lost five members of staff. Now the service users are not quite sure what's happening. When we had the funding, we were moving out about 11 people a month to permanent housing; now we're down to two. We also have a guy who has been here with us for a long time now, but will have to move into residential care because we just don't have the resources to look after him anymore."

Orbell also recalled the day he found out the £400,000 they received would be stopped, saying: "It was like being dumped by text!

"We were told by email in August last year that we had been unsuccessful because we weren't providing a service that was value for money and couldn't do the job, but we would disagree. We then had the choice of carrying on or giving up and going home, and the board felt we had a duty to at least try and maintain some kind of service. What we do now is provide advice and guidance and deal with immediate welfare needs. We are fortunate that we have managed to keep going, as there are projects that have had to go to the wall."

One such project is the Dry House service, which was offered by SIFA Fireside. Operations Manager Carole Fox said: "With the Supporting People funding we had a 21-bedded dry project for people who had come off alcohol, and for tenancy sustainment before resettlement. But now we have had to close that operation - we could do some really good long-term settlement planning, but that has been taken away from the most vulnerable people. Ironically, there's a new detox unit open in Birmingham with medical staff, and when we went to view it one of the staff said that they need to look for a place where people can go after there, like we had!

"It's just too early to tell the full impact across Birmingham."