COMMENT: Budget cuts mean new solutions are needed to tackle rising problem of homelessness

Councils need to be doing all they can to help tackle the rising problem of homelessness in our society. But the reality is that what can be achieved is limited by financial constraints.

Tuesday, 5th March 2019, 5:02 pm
Updated Tuesday, 5th March 2019, 6:10 pm

When the budgets won’t stretch as far as they used to, tough decisions have to be made. In some cases, that can be nothing to do with the council’s housekeeping but down to cuts in cash from the government.

Today we report how money given to Portsmouth City Council for Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP) is no longer sufficient, with most of it spent by last month because of rising demand. 

DHP can be awarded where housing is too expensive for some people to cover costs and is given to people in receipt of either Housing Benefit or the housing element of Universal Credit.

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But councillors say funding for the payments has gone down in recent years – £617,464 for the 2019/20 financial year compared to £675,063 the previous year.

Of that £675,063 allocated until next month, £654,021 has already gone. That doesn’t leave much in the pot.

This is at a time when the need for DHP in Portsmouth has dramatically increased along with demand for temporary accommodation. The sums just don’t add up.

We have to be concerned that cuts in government funding could lead to more people ending up on the streets.

But as budgets are not likely to increase, attention has to turn to ways to alleviate the problem.

These include the city council providing more temporary accommodation and cutting the 55-day waiting time between people leaving council properties and new people moving in, thereby increasing council tax income and reducing rent loss.

With less and less money, it’s these kinds of solutions that will be needed to make a meaningful difference.