Glasgow cuts homeless cash by £2.6 million as part of new plan

The National, by Karin Goodwin

GLASGOW City Health and Social Care Partnership (GCHSCP) has unveiled plans to cut its budget for homeless services by more than £2 million, with the loss of almost 100 emergency and supported housing beds across the city.

The plans to “make savings” of £2.6m, to be discussed at next Wednesday’s Integration Joint Board meeting, will see cuts to accommodation provided by charities including the Simon Community, the Scottish Association of Mental Health, the Talbot Association and Aspire, with an estimated loss of 89 beds from October.

GCHSCP claims the savings are part of a plan to modernise services as it makes a transition to the Housing First model, which sees homeless people given a flat and additional help rather than a place in a hostel room. According to meeting papers published yesterday, savings of £0.5m from services will be re-invested.

It says the “risks” in reducing bed spaces are “mitigated by the planned move on for clients”.

But it is understood in meetings last week charities were not told what those plans were, and they raised significant concerns about the extent of the cuts and impact on homeless people, the lack of consultation and the loss of staff jobs.

Others argued the risk for this population is already too high – more than 20 people have died since mid-December while homeless, including four found on the streets, with many deaths associated with drug overdoses.

Lawyers told The National that as the city is already regularly turning away homeless people without accommodation because it has no housing to offer, the move may see more people on the streets. Some currently placed in emergency hostels and supported accommodation units may not be eligible for Housing First, which has a strict set of criteria.

The Scottish Housing Regulator produced an “Engagement Plan” with Glasgow City Council last month, based on its long-standing failure to accommodate those to whom it had a statutory duty. It reported the council continues to fail to meet its duties to provide temporary and emergency accommodation.

Lorna Walker, senior solicitor at Govan Law Centre, said her clients were regularly turned away and ended up facing street homelessness because no accommodation was available.

“Closing all of these beds when people are already being turned away from services, or aren’t being moved from temporary accommodation sometimes for years, is very worrying,” she added. “Housing First will hopefully be a great thing, but we didn’t envisage it at the expense of existing provision.”

Councillor Kim Long, the Scottish Greens’ health and social care spokesperson in Glasgow, said: “We welcome the move to rapid rehousing. But services are already stretched and a cliff edge between the old and new service models, where support is suddenly taken away because of funding pressures, runs a very high risk of vulnerable people falling through the cracks.”

Hugh Hill, operation manager of the Simon Community Scotland, said the charity was “devastated” at losing two of its at-capacity services, with the loss of more than 30 jobs.

“Our staff have been delivering amazing support to hundreds of individuals over the years and many people are alive and well today as a direct consequence of the skills and experience of the team,” he added.

However, Maggie Brunjes, chief executive of Homeless Network, said the services being cut had “paved the way to modernise Glasgow’s response to homelessness”.

A spokeswoman for Glasgow’s Health and Social Care Partnership said: “Glasgow’s homeless services are being transformed to ensure they are fit for the 21st century and that no one spends longer than necessary in temporary accommodation.

“Rapid rehousing is our aim and all service users affected by these plans will move to either Housing First tenancies, mainstream tenancies or have appropriate support provided from alternative care group resources.

“We must ensure resources are used to best effect to help those who need help most, in the most appropriate manner. Unfortunately, some of the services affected by this decision were underused and others were operated from premises in need of repair or inappropriate in this day and age.”