Throughout the summer of 2014, we asked people who have experienced homelessness and the services that support them to tell us what the next government should do to make the biggest difference to homelessness. Their views are at the heart of Let's make the difference, our new manifesto to end homelessness.
Preventing #homelessness: The issue charities most care about?
Each year, we ask the staff working for our hundreds of members what are their top concerns and what we can do to better support them.
We thought we would share the findings of this survey, so you know what we’ll be focussing on in the year ahead.
While not a definitive snapshot of the sector’s views, the survey does provide a litmus test of where the priorities of those helping people who are homeless lie.
1 - Prevention
Nearly nine in ten homelessness professionals polled want to see more action to help people before they become homeless. Just two years ago this issue ranked seventh on the list of top concerns.
Why has this changed? It can be partly explained by the fact that rough sleeping has risen significantly in recent years, while investment in services that can help has fallen.
In the sector there is a strong desire to prevent homelessness before it begins. Evidence suggests that around half of people who sleep rough seek help after losing their last settled home and yet still end up on the streets.
This is why our homelessness manifesto calls on the next Government to take a prevention first approach.
We want everyone who seeks help from their council housing service to get a tailored offer of assistance that covers housing and other support needs. We also want to see other statutory services - such as the NHS, prisons and social care - take on a duty to help prevent homelessness.
2 - Accommodation
With rising rents and a shortage of affordable housing in some areas, many of our members struggle when it comes to supporting clients to move on from services into long-term accommodation.
With individuals unable to move out of services, there are fewer beds available to those who are newly homeless. This is why the majority of professionals we surveyed have listed increasing the supply and quality of accommodation as a top concern for three years running.
Our manifesto calls for a number of actions on the housing front, which we believe will both help to prevent and support people out of homelessness.
3 - Health
All the research on the issue tells us health and homelessness are strongly linked, and that one impacts upon the other. It therefore might not surprise you that ‘improving the physical and mental health of clients’ was ranked as ‘very important’ by eight out of ten homelessness professionals.
We will continue our work with the healthcare system to tackle homeless health inequality. We want to see improvements in care, commissioning, policy, inspection and accountability.
4 - Funding
Funding for housing related support and advice for vulnerable people fell, on average, by 45% between 2010-11 and 2013-14 according to the National Audit Office. This is why funding remains such a major concern for homeless charities.
Ending homelessness requires a long-term approach. This is why, in our manifesto, we call on politicians to develop a long-term strategy for investing in support for those who face homelessness, with greater national and local accountability.
5 - Welfare reform
In our 2013 membership survey, managing the impact of welfare reform was listed as the number one concern of members. The delayed roll out of Universal Credit might explain why it has dropped a few places this year but, as the roll out speeds up again, so will the concern of charities.
We’d like to thank everyone who took part in this year’s membership survey. We had a good spread of responses, from CEOs to front-line workers, and this has already helped shape our plans for the next three years.
So how will we take this forward? Well, we have already set out the steps that Government can take on housing, prevention, health, funding and welfare reform in our manifesto. Our new work plan, which will be published soon, will set out what Homeless Link aims to do.
But what can the sector do? This is the question that this summer’s Under One Roof conference for members will seek to answer. We very much hope you’ll join us.
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Homeless Link's Head of Communications until April 2015
Ben led on our campaigns, communications, membership and marketing until April 2015.
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