On the 15th of March the Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, will outline the Spring Budget in the House of Commons.
This fiscal plan is a real opportunity for Government to take the action urgently needed to address the rising cost of living and prevent people across the UK from facing homelessness.
At St Martin-in-the-Fields Charity, we are witnessing serious concern from homelessness workers across our UK-wide Frontline Network. Many frontline workers have seen rising demand for their service, but they face significant difficulties in finding affordable and suitable housing for people they support.
Based on research from our latest Annual Frontline Worker Survey (conducted in November-December 2022 and receiving 1,182 responses from across the UK), and in collaboration with other stakeholders working on the issue of homelessness, we are putting forward three key calls to Government ahead of the Spring Budget:
1. Restore Local Housing Allowance (LHA) and keep in line with at least the 30th percentile of private rents to help prevent homelessness.
We are asking Government to invest in LHA rates to create more affordable renting options, especially given the rise in cost of living. We ask this alongside many others across the homelessness sector who see this action as key in reducing homelessness, as outlined in Crisis’ latest briefing and in Shelter’s representation on the Spring Budget.
In our Frontline Worker Survey, 42% of frontline workers stated that their ability to help someone access appropriate accommodation had decreased in the last 12 months. In particular, 90% of frontline staff reported that obtaining private rented accommodation for people they supported was ‘very difficult’ or ‘difficult’.
The majority (63%) of frontline workers thought that keeping the LHA rate frozen at 2020/21 levels would increase homelessness over the next year.
“Private landlords are raising their rents, meanwhile the LHA remains the same. It’s clear this will leave many struggling to meet the costs of their rent and they will build arrears.”
“The LHA rate in London needs to be scrapped or at least reviewed so that it reflects the housing market, allowing homeless individuals more options to find appropriate and affordable housing.”
“As far as the LHA rates are concerned, they provide a massive blocker for households looking for their own private rental accommodation and for local authorities trying to help homeless applicants, particularly in view of the chronic shortage of social housing…”
2. Ensure frontline services are properly resourced so people can access support when they need it.
We join Homeless Link and other frontline organisations who are asking Government to uplift funding – in line with inflation – for commissioned homelessness services, giving the sector the resources it needs to Keep Our Doors Open.
In our Frontline Worker Survey, 78% of staff said that demand for their service had increased in the last 12 months. This growing need is further stretching services, many of whom are already facing staff shortages and insecure funding.
81% of frontline workers ‘agreed’ or ‘strongly agreed’ that we need an emergency inflationary uplift to commissioned services to help homelessness services with the rising cost of living.
“All the services I work with need more in their budget and more staff. I have three colleagues in my team doing the same role as me, but there should be five and in reality we need ten. We are covering some costs, like fuel, that we should be paid, and we are even personally buying food and other items for people in need.”
“More funding and more resourcing is needed across the board – we need to stop fire fighting and start addressing root causes!”
“We are so over budget our service may close which means we wont be able to help anyone!”
3. Continue to listen to people with lived and frontline experience of homelessness – to work together and improve policy and practice.
Ending homelessness will require significant and sustained commitment from Government. Beyond this budget, we ask Government to continue to work together with people who have experienced homelessness and those who work on the frontline offering support to realise this ambition.
With our Frontline Network, we can contribute to this by linking decision makers with frontline homelessness workers across the UK. On Thursday the 16th of March we are hosting an online event where we’ll be discussing results of our latest Frontline Worker Survey in more detail. We strongly encourage the relevant Government representatives to join us at this important event and hear about what it is like to work on the frontline of homelessness. We’ll be discuss key issues, good practice, the impact of the rising cost of living as well as staff wellbeing and access to training.
We know that across the homelessness sector and the wider community there is real commitment to building on the lessons learned during the pandemic. As we face the challenge of the rising cost of living, working together, we must act now to ensure that everyone has a safe place to call home.