'Without this place, I wouldn't be here': Bath man says cuts to adult services will cost lives

Michael says that potential cuts to homelessness services in Bath and North East Somerset will "cost lives" Credit: Julian House

"This place is a godsend and it's literally a lifesaver for some people. You can't put a price on what they do here."

It's been three months since Michael came to the hostel on Manvers Street in Bath.

He's 47 and worked all his life until just a few years ago, when he found himself sleeping rough in a tent, with only his French bulldog Bubbles for support.

"She was my best friend, my protector, and living rough - as you can imagine - she was my alarm too," he said.

But at the start of 2023, a group of drunk people attacked Michael in his tent at night.

"They tent-bombed my tent, I don’t know if they knew I was in there or not, and unfortunately they stood on Bubbles. 

"They actually broke her back and she was squealing from the pain.

"I came out of the tent to defend her and managed to fight off one of them and then I got hit with a bottle from behind.

"They stamped all over me, knocked my teeth out and pretty much left me for dead on the floor. A dog walker found me in the morning and she called the ambulance and the police."

Michael moved in with his sister for a few months, but he soon realised the attack had left him with mental and physical scars.

"It left me with PTSD and anxiety, because I kept reliving it night after night. I’d wake up the house because I’d be screaming and shouting and fighting in my sleep.  

"I had two broken teeth from the attack, which had become infected, but I couldn't get a dentist’s appointment through 111."

A lifeline from Julian House

So Michael went to Julian House, a Bath charity that support people experiencing homelessness, escaping domestic abuse, adults with learning difficulties and people who need support after leaving prison.

He managed to get a spot in their homeless hostel and within a month they put him on a dental plan. Since then, the charity has helped him "in so many ways".

"They’ve helped me with mental health, they put me on a 12-week course with Bath Mind to come to terms with some stuff that happened to me as a child.

"They’ve got me on DHI as well, talking about alcohol abuse, drug abuse, mental health - all of the things that come with a rough life on the streets," Michael said.

In fact, if he hadn't sought help from Julian House, there's a real chance Michael wouldn't be here today.

"Eight months ago I tried to take to my own life and I was dead for a minute and a half and they brought me back on the third try with the paddles.

"If it wasn’t for this place, I don’t know where I’d be right now," he said.

Michael and his friend Martin, in the Manvers Street hostel Credit: Julian House

Potential cuts on the horizon

So Michael was "disheartened and disgusted" to learn that Bath and North East Somerset Council has proposed reducing its funding for adult services in the district.

Roanne Wootten, strategic partnerships director at Julian House, said charities in Bath were "on a cliff-edge of cuts".

She said: "These cuts, if approved, will impact our supported housing and outreach services, as well as other providers like Bath Mind and StepChange [debt charity].

"They're proposing cutting the total budget by 34% and it’s very unclear at the moment how those cuts will be decided."

She added that, although BANES Council has a statutory duty to try to prevent homelessness and to provide housing advice, it does not have to provide supported housing and outreach services.

The council needs to save £2.3million on adult services this year, which means that while some providers could receive a funding boost, others could receive less funding.

And any cuts could be catastrophic for Julian House, Roanne explained.

A homeless person sleeping rough in a doorway Credit: Yui Mok/PA

"For about a decade we’ve been subsidising a lot of our contracts and especially the last few years with the cost of living crisis.

"We haven’t seen an increase in our contract income, so the same income we had 10 years ago for those contracts is the same as we’ve got now. 

"They are supposed to be fully-funded contracts but we are subsidising them.

"And therefore any further cuts to those services will result in service closure - not just for Julian House, but for other providers as well."

This comes at a time when Julian House is needed "more than ever before", Roanne added.

"I’ve worked in BANES for 20 years and we’re seeing a lot more economically-driven homelessness.

"Previously, we’d see people who had come from very difficult home situations, like they’d come from care or real trauma in their lives. 

"We’re seeing more and more people who are sleeping in their cars, who have lost their job and their relationship and their home all at the same time.

"We’re now in a situation where people who have previously been in full-time employment in well-known companies are ending up homeless."

And the impact of this streamlined budget is already being felt - before its even been approved.

Roanne said: "To even hear about these cuts has been really hard for our clients.

"They cannot understand why their home is potentially going to be at risk in the future, why their support worker might not be there anymore."

And, in time, people like Michael may have nowhere to go.

He said: "I know for a fact that if this place and others like it didn’t exist, there would be a lot of deaths, a lot. 

"Either through drug abuse, poor mental health, suicide, sleeping rough in the cold with nowhere to get a meal.

"The crime rate would rise immeasurably because everyone would be stealing food and clothes, that’s just what life is like on the streets.

"This place is a godsend, it’s a lifesaver for some people." 

ITV News West Country approached Bath and North East Somerset Council for comment.

Councillor Mark Elliott, cabinet member for Resources, said: “The current budget proposals actually provide for growth in the Adult Services portfolio in 2024/25 of £4.6m in addition to the current net budget of £60.3m, an increase of 7.7%.

"Almost £1m of this is allocated to meeting additional demands from the growth in numbers of people using these crucial services, many of which are statutory.

“Savings are needed as the council is required to agree a fully balanced budget, and for 2024/25 we had a £16.82m funding gap, which we needed income generation and savings to close.

"The savings requirement in Adult Services is £2.3m in 2024/25 which is 3.6% of the revised budget for 2024/25.

“In relation to the community services savings item, these specific contracts have not been looked at for some time and given these huge financial pressures we need to look at ways of focusing our spend on the greatest need and on prioritising the statutory provision laid down by central government.

"We are acutely aware of the risk that a decrease in funding for preventative services may create a budget pressure for statutory services in the future.

"We greatly value our third sector partners who do really important work and will work with them to minimise this.

"We have consulted on our budget proposals, listened carefully to the feedback, and will consider views carefully."

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