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Coventry City Council rubber-stamps cuts disguised as freezes

February 10 2012
 Number of homeless people has doubled in five years, but will the new consortium help?

 

Coventry City Council has given the go-ahead to budget cuts - disguised as freezes - which are likely to have devastating consequences for homeless people in the city.

At a meeting on 17 January, cabinet members decided to ‘maintain’ their existing annual budget of £1,396,583 for at least two years, a move that is expected to add considerably to the 30 per cent increase in those needing accommodation recorded by the Council over the last year.

The council’s data also show that the number of homeless people in the city has risen to 1,700, more than double the number recorded just five years ago. According to the Council, this includes people who are ‘non-statutory’ homeless, which means they are not a considered a priority.

As always, the true extent of the problem is likely to be very much higher due to the fluctuating numbers of rough sleepers on the city’s streets and the ‘hidden homeless’.

Councillor Tony Skipper (Neighbourhood Action, Housing, Leisure and Culture), who spoke at the meeting, has previously said that the Council must cut services. He accepts that in freezing the budget the Council has, in effect, cut the homeless budget due to the high level of inflation (currently five per cent).

The meeting also agreed to introduce H2H (Here 2 Help), a consortium of local charities which it believes will “create opportunities for cooperation and innovation between providers” and “ensure the provision of a more flexible and joined up service that was responsive to changes in demand and user needs.”

For an 18-month period starting in September 2012, the council will award current funding allocation to H2H to deliver services with a brief to “prevent homelessness and tackle the wider causes of homelessness.” The cabinet meeting concluded that: “The management of service delivery through H2H had the potential to improve the level of service provided to users by putting in place a single point of access which would enable service users to access the right service first time and reduce duplication of effort.”

Once it is up and running, the H2H Consortium will have to demonstrate that joint working between agencies -which include the Salvation Army, Coventry Cyrenians and Whitefriars - can provide significant savings and improve service efficiency.

Mike Parker, chair of Grub and Gab, a charity which provides food and shelter to Coventry’s homeless people, said: “With H2H Coventry, [the] City Council plans to ‘pay’ three businesses to run the homelessness services in the City. £1.4 million over 18 months to look after an ever-increasing number of homeless in the City? Only £1.4 million? How much of that will be spent on the people who are in need, I wonder? Three different businesses, each having to pay wages, rent, admin costs, all the associated other costs of running a homelessness business. So think again. Just how much of the £1.4 million pounds will end up actually benefiting homeless people?”

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