For several years this Annual Report has highlighted the challenges we face. As the stories here show it is not Framework, but those we serve, who are really at risk when leaders abdicate their responsibility.
The sad fact is that austerity has impacted more deeply and with greater damage on some parts of the community than others.
An example of failed policy is the dramatic rise in rough sleeping – both nationally and locally. In the autumn of 2015, Crisis estimated that 3,569 people were sleeping rough in England – the highest figure since 1998 and more than twice the rate of Autumn 2010.
After many years in which our street outreach teams managed to keep a lid on this problem, similar rises have also been reported locally. In Nottingham, for example, more people are sleeping rough than at any time for almost 20 years.
The sad fact is that austerity has impacted more deeply and with greater damage on some parts of the community than others. The homeless, vulnerable and excluded people who come to Framework for help have been among austerity’s greatest victims. The dramatic rise of rough sleeping is just a symptom of this but it encapsulates the problem – one that could readily be solved with some moral courage and a degree of political will.
‘Supporting People’ (SP) was a successful programme assisting people with a range of needs to live well in the community. The last Labour government withdrew the protection from this funding, allowing the Coalition to disguise massive cuts as they buried it in the local government settlement. Councils prioritised services for citizens to whom they owed statutory duties rather than those in the greatest need. Prevention budgets were slashed and in many cases withdrawn. The inevitable consequence was more demand for emergency accommodation, increased waiting lists and a continuing rise in homelessness. The associated miseries – such as mental ill health, substance misuse, anti-social behaviour and economic inactivity are expensive in financial as well as human terms.
As recently as 2015, central Government appeared to have grasped the linkages. It signalled a new initiative that would provide joined-up help for people with multiple and complex needs. Charities, trusts and think tanks invested time, money and energy to develop detailed proposals. Regrettably, this good idea was not pursued. No reason was given.
Worse still, a new proposal has emerged to reduce drastically the amount of Housing Benefit payable to people living in hostels and other supported accommodation from April 2018. It threatens the stability of around 250,000 very vulnerable people by making it impossible for landlords to house them safely. The available alternatives are hospitals, prisons, care homes, rough sleeping and death. It is not clear why politicians would wish to destroy specialist services that are preferable to all of these. The case for supported housing is strong. With partners across the country, Framework is making it loud and clear.
In the meantime, we still have the ‘day job’, which is responding to the needs of more than 11,000 individuals per annum who come to us for help.
We have been doing this as Framework for 15 years, and before that as Macedon and Nottingham Help the Homeless Association. Over that time we’ve supported tens of thousands of people to change the direction of their lives – by giving them places of safety, confronting the problems they can’t deal with alone, building their confidence and developing the skills needed to survive in a complicated world.
I’d like to think our work will no longer be necessary in another 15 years, but the signs just now are in the opposite direction. Referrals, waiting lists, profiles of need and the level of rough sleeping are all going up. National leadership is needed to deliver the solutions that are known to work.
Framework is a specialist service provider that draws on its experience to argue for something better than what is failing now.