CTWM Briefing on Homelessness and Housing in the West Midlands
On Wednesday 13th July at Sifa Fireside, Birmingham, Helen Mathie, Homeless Link spoke about how national figures on statutory homelessness does not reflect the real picture of homelessness. The way local authorities manage homelessness hide the real picture as well as the lack of official figures on non statutory homelessness. Currently statutory homelessness is up by 5% with the West Midlands showing the third highest. Estimates of rough sleepers nationally show continued growth as well as hidden homelessness (people sharing households and overcrowding). Researchers and those working in the field have seen a steep rise in the numbers of people facing – or at risk of – homelessness, a trend that has gone largely unnoticed by Government. Due to public sector cuts, there has been service provision changes, which shows a drop in services and projects of 19%. In particular bed spaces has dropped but there has been an increase in day centre provision. This reflects a trend currently of short term crisis management of homelessness rather than an investment in services to reduce the risk of homelessness and tackle in a holistic way the underlying causes. Some of the critical issues Helen highlighted was the current parliamentary debate on a cap on the amount of rent that housing benefit will cover in the social sector. If this was to go ahead this would impact significantly on service provider contract income level, probably leading to further services closing. A copy of Helen’s presentation can be found here.
Jean Templeton, Chief Executive, St Basil’s spoke about the value of grant funding that is available from trusts and foundations in a climate of commissioning and contracts. Although the foundation contribution to homelessness issues is relatively small, as part of a blended incomes source for third sector organisations, it provides a critical source of flexibility and development that helps organisations maintain some level of sustainability. Jean particularly mentioned the introduction of Social Investment Bonds as one source of investment for St Basil’s, which has not been easy to manage or deliver on. St Basil’s works with young people aged between 16-25 and mentioned a recent report by Joseph Rowntree Foundation that shows the groups most affected by destitution. For the first time it highlights the plight of young people under 25 living alone who are living on benefit income that is below the destitution level. A copy of Jean’s presentation can be found here.
Both speakers raised the matter of welfare cuts and changes have left a growing number of people struggling to keep a roof over their heads. There is evidence that people face hardship because of welfare sanctions; being unable to find a home on housing benefit; or being forced out of their local area. Combined with the housing crisis that successive governments have failed to tackle, these issues are taking its toll on people’s lives. In conclusion, Helen and Jean emphasised the importance of a preventative approach to tackling homelessness and the risk of homelessness. Homeless Link is undertaking some work on prevention as part of its work with the Department of Communities and Local Government, which will include case studies about effective practice. Updates will be posted on the Homeless Link website.
Helen Mathie, Head of Policy, Homeless Link, a national membership organisation for agencies working with people who are homeless will present a national overview of the trends and causes of homelessness and government’s policy agenda in tackling homelessness as well as some of the challenges. Helen oversees Homeless Link’s policy, research and information teams who seek to influence change across a range of policy areas including health, welfare reform and youth homelessness. After starting her career in community development, Helen worked at the homelessness charity Broadway prior to joining Homeless Link in 2009. Helen was seconded in 2013 to the DH’s Health Inequalities unit to lead a review of commissioning for vulnerable and excluded groups. In 2015 she completed London Housing Foundation’s Leadership in Housing & Homelessness programme.
Jean Templeton, Chief Executive, St Basil’s Birmingham, a charity supporting the needs of young people who are homeless, will present an overview of youth homelessness in the region, a progressive partnership approach to addressing their needs and draw upon some examples of St Basil’s work. Prior to Jean’s appointment at St Basils, she has over 20 years’ experience of managing housing and neighbourhood services in a number of Local Authorities in the North East and Midlands. She is currently co-opted on Birmingham Strategic Housing Partnership Executive in her role as Third Sector Assembly Champion for Housing.
Previous roles include Chair of Birmingham Social Housing Partnership, Community Partner on Kings Norton NDC, Board Member of Urban Living, Exec Board Member of Regional Housing Partnership. She is Chair of the West Midlands Homelessness Forum and contributes to the Ministerial Advisory Group on homelessness through DCLG’s partner group.
In December 2006, she was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Birmingham.