Housing organisations have warned that 'people will die' if plans to reduce spending on accommodation for homeless people in Newcastle are approved.
It follows budget proposals tabled in November, which would see Newcastle City Council reduce the level of accommodation it procures to be made available to those sleeping rough on the streets.
However, housing organisations have warned that the plans could prove fatal for some of society's most vulnerable when the need for support has never been greater.
Representatives from Tyne Housing, Changing Lives, Action Foundation and St Vincent de Paul Society of England and Wales signed a joint statement to speak out against the proposals, saying: “At a time of year when many turn a thought to people more vulnerable than themselves, it is awful to think that if these plans proceed, services will be forced to turn people away, and that is just devastating.
“The stark reality here is that we are talking about the difference between life and death. Without the right help, people living on the streets of Newcastle are at a much higher risk of isolation, falling into addiction or suffering from exploitation, and the terrifying truth is that we believe people will die as a result of changes.
“When it comes to the most vulnerable people in our society, there must not only be compassion, but coordination in the care and assistance they receive. Support must be delivered in a way that is grounded in a deep understanding of the challenges they face, and a focus on holistic solutions – it is the only way to break the cycles many of these people find themselves in.”
Recent figures from Shelter show that almost 1,460 people across the wider North East will be spending Christmas without a home, including around 480 children stuck in temporary accommodation.
Under the budget proposals, the council’s could reduce its spending on homelessness services by £1.6m between 2024 and 2026, as part of its efforts to around £60m from its overall budgets over the next three years.
It is not yet known how many of the current 734 beds could be lost.
A council spokesperson said: “We are in the process of consulting on several budget proposals for 2024/25, one of which relates to a reduction of spend on the services we buy from external providers.
“We absolutely understand the potential impact all our proposals have on the people we support. No decisions have yet been made around access to the services or the numbers of beds available, but we have already spoken with our homeless providers as we want to work with them to safely implement any changes this proposal will have on the way we currently support people who are homeless. To give us time to do this, this proposal will not be implemented until October 2024.”
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