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Petition created for the future of city’s YMCA
FEARS have been raised that a vital service offering shelter to hundreds of homeless people could become “unsustainable” because of looming council cuts.
A petition has been launched to fight for the future of Worcester YMCA as Worcestershire County Council considers cutting its funding for supporting homeless people by more than 50 per cent.
The petition has been created by a concerned user of the 85-bed YMCA, in Hen-wick Road, St John’s, who fears the proposed cuts could lead to people being left to fend for themselves on the street.
YMCA leaders have ruled out closure but admit they are hugely concerned.
Although supported accommodation and housing related support are not part of the council’s statutory responsibilities, it currently provides about £1.8 million funding every year.
But it is proposing reducing that to £911,000 under plans to cut £32 million from spending on adult and health services.
Worcestershire YMCA offers another 52 beds in Red-ditch and helps 400 homeless people every year.
Head of delivery, Geoff Taylor-Smith, said that level of service would be impossible if council funding of about £800,000 was cut.
“It is a threat and it is a threat particularly to people who are on the street,” he said.
“There will be more people on the streets at night and it will have implications for crime levels and A&E admissions.”
He believes the overall cost to society if support is withdrawn would be “considerably higher” than the funding the organisation currently receives.
Mr Taylor-Smith said: “It really is an unknown. We don’t know if we will be losing all of it, some of it or most of it. But come what may the YMCA in Worcester will not close completely. It is here to stay.”
However, he warned of the impact of funding cuts, which will be finalised in January, and welcomed the petition.
“If we were to lose 50 per cent then with that level of reduction we would have to look at staffing levels and we would have to come up with different models for supporting our residents,” he said.
“It is not just a case of a bed for the night, many of them have problems with alcohol or substance misuse. These are people with complex lives.
“It is good to know that our users are as passionate about keeping things going as we are.”
Councillor Marcus Hart, cabinet member for health and wellbeing, said the council needs to “prioritise its investment” due to financial challenges.
“Part of our early proposals is to reduce the funding available to early help and support services, including supported accommodation and housing-related support for families and young people, which the council has historically commissioned,” he said.
“These are all services that are not part of our core responsibilities to service users and there is limited evidence that these services prevent people from requiring adult social care.”
He said the county council will talk with housing associations and district councils and work with them to reduce the impact of any reductions.
He urged anyone concerned to have their say – either online at worcestershire.gov.uk/futurelives or at public buildings across Worcestershire.
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