£65m underspend by councils leaves homeless young people at risk
31 Mar 2014
A £65m underspend by councils could put homeless young people at risk
Centrepoint has found that a staggering £65 million assigned for the emergency support of vulnerable young people remains unspent by councils.
139 local authorities responded to Centrepoint’s Freedom of Information request, revealing that more than half of the £136 million allocated to providing essentials for young people at risk of repeat homelessness - items like a bed or an oven – has not been spent.
Centrepoint believes this may be due to fear from councils that future cuts will leave them unable to provide emergency support beyond 2015. We are now calling for the government to guarantee current levels of funding for local authority welfare assistance schemes.
The Local Authority Welfare Scheme was introduced to replace the discretionary social fund which, before it was abolished by the current government, was a widely-used safety net for homeless young people leaving Centrepoint hostels and moving into homes of their own.
Yet fewer applications from young people desperate for help are being accepted by local authorities. 116,410 crisis loans and community care grants were awarded to under-25s from the previous scheme in 2012/2013, yet it is estimated that as few as 13,734 under 25s have been allocated money from the welfare scheme in 2013/14.
Research by Sheffield University has underlined the need for financial support from homeless young people moving into their own homes for the first time: 59 per cent had no bed, 69 per cent no cooker and 66 per cent no fridge.
Seyi Obakin, Centrepoint's chief executive, said: ’It’s completely unacceptable that young people who have fought to turn their lives around after facing homelessness are once again finding themselves sleeping on floors for lack of something as basic as a bed.
‘The government simply must protect the money for welfare assistance schemes beyond 2015. 80,000 young people face homelessness each year in the UK and this funding provides a lifeline for many of those who have fought to turn their lives around.
‘Clearly councils need to start using these funds to address urgent need now and ensure that young people have access to it. But the political parties at Westminster must lay out firm plans for future funding. Without that commitment we run the very real risk of young people falling into the downward spiral of homelessness all over again.’
Layan, aged 17, is chair of the Centrepoint Parliament - a voice for homeless young people - and has experienced homelessness herself. She said: ‘This money is needed and provides a lifeline to young people, helping them to afford essential items of furniture as they adjust to living independently for the first time.
‘Leaving Centrepoint is daunting and young people need to know this safety net is available should they need it. The government must keep money for emergency welfare support; otherwise those moving on from Centrepoint could find themselves back on the streets.’
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