HOMELESSNESS will increase in Worcester because of controversial cuts says a charity chief executive.
Martyn Saunders, chief executive of Worcester Citizens Advice Bureau and Worcester Housing and Benefits Advice Centre (CAB and WHABAC), is worried about the future of the county's most vulnerable people if proposed cuts go through.
CAB/WHABAC stand to lose three Worcestershire County Council contracts worth £230,000 by the beginning of the financial year in April because of "Future Lives", a review of services by the county council as they seek to claw back £98 million by 2017. The supporting people budget would be slashed from £15 million a year to £6.5 million a year, affecting services on issues like older people, learning disabilities, domestic abuse, offender services and homelessness. For CAB/WHABAC it would entail the loss of contracts which would affect housing related support for substance misusers and offenders across Worcestershire and families at risk of homelessness in Worcester itself. The loss of the contracts will mean 10 housing support workers losing their jobs with CAB/WHABAC (of the 47 in total employed by the charity).
Mr Sauders said of the impact on clients: "This is likely to lead to increased homelessness. That is one of our main worries and our prime concerns. This is cutting services to the most vulnerable but also taking away other services they would be likely to turn to for health and advice. At a time of increasing demand there will be a reduced service. I think this is an essential service to help prevent homelessness and homelessness will increase if this goes through.
"They are all vulnerable people. All our substance misusers will be engaging with treatment agencies. Because they have stable accommodation they are more likely to comply with their treatment." He said figures supplied by the Ministry of Justice said 60 per cent of prisoners believed that having a place to live was important in stopping them reoffending. Offenders can be helped by CAB/WHABAC who can provide a deposit guarantee (bond) and even lease some properties themselves. Help is now provided with their budgeting so they pay their rent on time and are able not only to gain housing but stay in it.
He said CAB/WHABAC had a county wide contract to partnership with other CABs and two disability information advice lines which he understood would end this September. He said: "Where are people going to turn if services like CAB are cut?"
A meeting of offenders on January 15 at CAB/WHABAC which revealed the level of concern over the potential loss of services Mr Saunders said.
Figures from the CAB/WHABAC show that 886 people across the county approached them because they were either homeless or at risk of becoming so in 2012/13. They helped 213 people into private rented accommodation tenancies that year. They helped in total 27,053 clients in 2012/13 although they estimate this helped 50,000 people if you factor in their families, partners and dependants.
The three cabinet members from the county council will be meeting to discuss the report at a closed meeting on February 12. This report will be made public five working days prior to the meeting on February 4. Cllr Sheila Blagg, cabinet member for adult social car,e will make the final decision, which will be published on councils website within three working days of the final decision being made.
Cllr Blagg said: "Future lives is the council's strategy to reform adult social care in light of peoples changing needs and new legislation. We have recently been to consultation on prevention and early help services and have received a really good response. Cabinet members will now take all the responses into consideration when making the decision on February. 12"