Tory-run West Sussex County Council has triggered outrage and concern across the county as they release a last minute change to the council’s Forward Plan, outlining proposals to abolish the council’s “Supporting People” fund which makes a significant contribution to the running of all the housing-related support services provided by charities and voluntary organisations across the county.
West Sussex made this shock announcement late yesterday afternoon, which also includes reducing the Local Assistance Network (formerly the discretionary element of the old Social Fund) by three quarters, and will have serious implications for those councils and housing associations in West Sussex who provide elderly sheltered housing and extra care services, including the countywide “Lifeline” service.
Funding to support these services used to be provided by the county council through a ring fenced Government grant which was taken away entirely by the Tory-led coalition Government in 2011, since when the County Council has continued to fund services from its base budget.
The county council has decided to consider abolishing virtually all of the entire £6 million fund for “Supporting People” because it is not a minimum statutory obligation required of them by the Government, and the Forward Plan states “the discretionary nature of the services involved” means the Cabinet Member for Housing Amanda Jupp (Con, Billinghurst) “will be asked to approve a process which could lead to the termination of current housing support contracts with providers from April 2019 onwards.”
Many providers across the county will be affected by such moves. These will include: Crawley Open House, Worthing Churches, Bognor Housing Trust, Stonepillow, Safe in Sussex Home Group, Crawley Foyer, Quick Access Beds for Youth Homelessness, Southdown Independent Living Scheme, Crawley Life House, CGL, Peabody South East, Sanctuary, Life Housing and YMCA Downslink.
Labour Leader of Crawley Borough Council Councillor Peter Lamb responded to the news with the following statement:
“This proposal will effectively close every homeless hostel in West Sussex, casting our most desperate residents out of safety and onto the streets. It’s deeply immoral and the consequences will be felt by the whole community. Crawley Borough Council will do what it can to help our local hostel, but the money to pay for these grants were baselined into county council grants in 2011 and they have a moral duty to help support vulnerable adults.”
Labour county councillor Michael Jones agreed with Councillor Lamb, adding:
“Trying to abolish the entire homelessness support funding the county council provides is not only incredibly callous and despicable of this Tory leadership, it is also immensely short-sighted.
“The county council will end up having to pay the consequences later when these vulnerable people deteriorate and then require services that they are statutorily required to provide, so most of the savings are likely to be lost quite quickly.
“Anyone who has seen first-hand the dedication of the staff at these organisations trying to help people in this terrible situation turn their lives around, and go forward with a roof over their heads, would not doubt for a second the benefit to the community they provide. The price it costs is relatively small as opposed to the costs that will undoubtedly emerge if they aren’t there, particularly to the health service and the Police.
“In the meantime, I fear these cuts will trigger an epidemic of homelessness. This is likely to mean rough sleeping in the town centres, public places and open spaces, street begging and all the anti-social behaviour that can unfortunately accompany it, in a way that people in West Sussex will simply never have seen the likes of before. Where else will people seek help if these places aren’t there?”
To sign the petition calling on West Sussex to drop the cuts, please go to: https://www.change.org/p/louise-goldsmith-save-crawley-open-house