houses of parliament at sunset

£115m for homelessness - a drop in the ocean?

Paul Morrish | 16.03.16

In an announcement widely trailed over the past couple of days, the Chancellor today earmarked £115m to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping in the UK. Any funding is of course welcome, especially for hard-pressed services working with those on the streets who are in desperate need of accommodation and support today and tonight. It is particularly good news that the Government is keen to focus on preventative services too.

But as campaigners have pointed out, while the money will help, it is a drop in the ocean when put alongside the cuts experienced over the past 5-6 years to the very services this funding is designed to help. The growth in rough sleeping especially and homelessness more generally is regarded by many to be a direct response to some of the changes in welfare benefits, and to the cuts in precisely the services that were set up to avoid people falling through the already weak safety nets we had in place. So it’s difficult to applaud an announcement of funding that barely registers alongside the scale of loss in funding seen over recent years.

Prevention is the real challenge. The root causes of homelessness need to be tackled from the outset. Only by doing this, will we be able to build on young people’s capabilities and give them the tools and support to survive and thrive through adolescence and into adulthood. LandAid funds a range of charities that do this and support young people who, without these charities’ skilled and patient tenacity, would be statistically more likely to end up homeless. So, although we welcome the Chancellor’s commitment to support more preventative work, this intervention needs to be more integrated, both in and around mainstream education, in order to realise the levels of change we really need.

But the real problem, highlighted by Rick Henderson, CEO of Homeless Link, is the lack of any real strategy into which this investment fits. If this funding is to be more than just another headline to accompany a very challenging Budget speech, it needs to fit into a more coordinated approach to the problem of homelessness, which brings social enterprises, charities and government together. And that’s what is missing. Funding without a strategy is like a bath without a plug, frustrating and ultimately pointless.

Also missing in the current discussion is the role that business can play. LandAid is supported by 120 companies, professional networks and trade associations – all of which do business in the property industry. That those businesses are backing LandAid’s call to end youth homelessness, is testimony to their desire to underpin their rhetoric of corporate responsibility with genuine action.

Businesses can be a massive force for good, we need only see some of the great work done by the We Mean Business coalition to see how transformative commerce can be. At LandAid we’re determined to encourage the property industry to become the UK’s most significant industry-specific corporate agent for social change.

£100m is good news for those charities and vulnerable people who are lucky enough to be beneficiaries. However, without the sort of coordinated, strategic planning that LandAid is keen to be part of, and without the active engagement of enlightened businesses, that money will remain what sceptics already fear it to be – mere window-dressing, designed to catch the eye but with no regard to any lasting legacy.

To join the growing list of businesses backing LandAid’s call to action, and to pledge your support, email me today. Help us put a stop to youth homelessness for good.