Devon County Council cuts to homelessness services 'disastrous' for people at risk

The council says it can no longer afford to pay for the services. Credit: ITV News

Charities in Devon are warning of a 'homelessness crisis' if the council decides to cut funding.

Devon County Council (DCC) is consulting on proposals to stop funding adult homelessness services across the county that cost around £1.5 million per year.

It says it can “no longer afford” to pay for the services, with the money instead going towards increasing spending in other areas that support vulnerable children, young people and adults.

But YMCA Exeter, which receives £150,000 in support from the council, says “the consequences for vulnerable young adults will be huge” if its funding is stopped.

Exeter homeless charity St Petrock’s adds it could lead to a “homelessness crisis” in the city.

The proposals come at a time when new figures reveal the estimated number of rough sleepers in Devon increased by 28 per cent last year to 113.

The county council’s current £1.5 million contribution is delivered through a contract with five providers who support around 250 people at any one time.

Their services are provided in managed multiple occupancy ‘hostels’ in Exeter, East Devon, Torridge and North Devon, as well as through a countywide floating support service - with none of the money paying for accommodation.

Outlining the potential impacts of its loss in funding, YMCA Exeter warns that over 100 young adults a year could continue to face homelessness and “no longer have access to tailored wellbeing support, unable to move beyond their circumstances and thrive again.

“Without the essential prevention measures YMCA Exeter provides Devon County Council could find themselves covering an average bill of over £924,000 a year in adult social care costs, rather than the current £157,000 they give to YMCA Exeter.”

The charity added: “If this funding stops, the city could be faced with housing benefit and adult social care costs of well over £1.8 million a year.

"Plus, the knock-on effect of removing preventative care increases the burden on the police, our hospitals and our mental health services.

“YMCA Exeter is playing a massive role in reducing Devon County Council’s statutory responsibilities.

"YMCA Exeter intercede at the crisis point of a young person’s life and prevent them from getting to the place where they need Devon County Council to provide an adult social care package.”

Exeter’s St Petrock’s has also urged the council to think again, warning the number of people in the city forced to sleep on the streets or in vulnerable circumstances is “set to soar” if the cuts go ahead.

Peter Stephenson, St Petrock’s director said: “This is disastrous for people at risk of homelessness in Exeter and across Devon, who are some of the most vulnerable people in our community.

“Long-standing and desperately needed support is set to disappear, removing a lifeline people desperately need to avoid becoming homeless.

“We’re horrified at the widespread human suffering this could cause and are urgently considering how we can support all those who are forced onto the streets as a result.  We’re talking to our partners about a joint response to the consultation.”

A spokesperson for Devon County Council said: “We’ve budgeted this year to significantly increase spending in services that support vulnerable children, young people and adults, to meet rapidly growing demand for those services.

“To prioritise spending on our statutory responsibilities, we have to make savings in the region of £45 million from elsewhere and get the best possible outcomes from every single penny we spend.

“While we’ve been able to help fund this support service in the past, even though it falls outside our statutory adult social care responsibilities, sadly, we can no longer afford to do so.

“Reluctantly, we are therefore proposing to stop our contributions to this contract and instead target our scarce resources to support growing numbers of vulnerable adults who are eligible for social care support.”

The spokesperson added: “We will not make a decision regarding this proposal until we’ve considered the consultation responses, and we encourage people in the meantime to let us know what they think.”

The public consultation is open until Wednesday 19 April.

Credit: Ollie Heptinstall, LDRS Reporter