Homeless at risk this winter due to lack of emergency accommodation
Homeless people are at risk of dying on the streets this winter as one in three council workers have stated that because of budget cuts, they are less able to provide emergency accommodation in cold temperatures.
An Inside Housing survey of 138 council staff, taken from 115 councils across England has revealed that 49 of them stated that their employer has reduced its facilities in providing emergency accommodation if temperatures drop below zero degrees, is already the case in some parts of England. They suggest that councils may breach their own Severe Weather Emergency Protocols (SWEP) which are triggered in cold weather to prevent deaths on the street.
The results from this survey suggest that homelessness services are struggling to cope with the added pressures of the weather. Homelessness minister, Kris Hopkins, argued that the reason why the large majority of councils lacked confidence in providing support to those in desperate need was due to the government’s procedures with homeless people, including the No Second Night Out programme.
Homelessness charity Crisis stated that the results of the survey were ‘deeply troubling’. Rick Henderson, chief executive of Homeless Link, said: ‘Sleeping rough in freezing temperatures can kill you. This is why it is essential that shelter from the cold is available in every area, with enough resources to meet rising demand’.
A council officer in the North West stated, ‘It feels like homelessness is no longer a priority. This is very sad because we have worked with a client who lost their toes as a direct result of frost bite whilst rough sleeping’.
The National Audit Office (NAO) said last month that the government will reduce its funding to councils by an estimated 28% between 2010/11 and 2014/15.
Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis stated, ‘SWEP could be a lifesaver for those left with nowhere else to turn this winter so it is deeply troubling to hear that cuts may leave some councils unable to keep people safe’.
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