The body has sent a joint letter with housing charities to the homelessness minister

The National Housing Federation (NHF) has written to the homelessness minister to raise ”serious concern” at the number of county councils considering decommissioning homelessness and other supported housing funding contracts “due to severe financial constraints”.

Kate Henderson

National Housing Federation chief executive, Kate Henderson, sent a joint letter with Homeless Link and the LGA raising concern at the decommissioning of homelessness support services

Sent to Felicity Buchan on 15 January, the letter warns that if the county councils in question are not provided with sufficient funding, multiple supported housing services will be forced to close.

The letter was sent by the chief executive of the National Housing Federation, Kate Henderson, Homeless Link’s chief executive Rick Henderson and councillor David Fothergill, chair of the Local Government Association community wellbeing board.

It was co-signed by Crisis, Centrepoint, Shelter, the National Care Forum, the Chartered Institute of Housing, Rethink Mental Illness and the Rural Homelessness Counts Coalition.

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It states that due to the crisis in local government finances, the group of housing organisations is currently aware of three county council proposals to de-commission homelessness support contracts, of which one has been formally approved.

It goes on to say that “while county councils are not statutorily obliged to fund homelessness support services, more than half in England do so through their commitment to reduce health inequalities, with people experiencing homelessness experiencing significantly worse physical and mental health than the average person”.

There are a total of 21 county councils in England, which are responsible for social care, transport, education and planning. 

The letter does not state which three councils are considering or have approved these proposals, but says that they are collectively projecting a funding gap of £165m in 2024/25, ”which they currently have no choice but to fill through budget cuts”.

In November, Leicestershire County Council voted to approve a proposal to remove a £300,000 homelessness support fund from April 2024.

Devon County Council has also been considering whether to remove its £1.5m homelessness prevention fund. 

A Local Government Association (LGA) survey from December found that one in five council leaders think it is likely they will have to issue a Section 114 notice, either this year or next.

Birmingham issued a s114 notice in September 2023, followed by Nottingham in November, “placing their non-statutory supported accommodation contracts at risk” according to the NHF.

The housing bodies stated that, if enacted, the proposals will significantly reduce homelessness provisions. They said that in one county, five accommodation projects and a floating support service will have to close, while in another, over 160 beds for people experiencing homelessness are at risk.

The letter adds that “reduction in commissioned support services may also risk pushing out good quality housing association and voluntary and community sector (VCS) providers leading to an increase in poor quality, non-commissioned exempt accommodation delivered by unscrupulous landlords”.

Research from Homeless Link in 2022 found that the number of accommodation projects for people experiencing homelessness has fallen by 33% since 2012, with the number of bed spaces falling by 20% as a result.

To maintain and increase the supply of supported housing, the letter recommends that the government ring-fence funding for housing-related support to ensure spending at least matches the £1.6bn per year allocated to local authorities in England in 2010.

It states that the government could also recommit to the £300m Housing Transformation Fund, to support the development of specialist housing and the integration of housing into health and social care systems.