Council 'breaking promises and abandoning homeless young people'
Derbyshire County Council is being accused of breaking promises and abandoning those in need as it prepares to approve swingeing cuts to funding for homeless and vulnerable young people.
SAFE, a consortium providing housing and support to homeless16 to 24 year-olds, says Council plans to cut its funding by up to 85 per cent are illogical, irrational, counter-productive, and contradictory to the Authority’s own stated aims and ambitions for young people. It is also warning that the proposals will lead to increased levels of rough sleeping, social exclusion, crime, unemployment and other social problems.
Protesters - a mixture of service users and staff - gathered outside County Hall in Matlock as Cabinetmembers met on Tuesday to confirm plans to cut around £7million from phase two of its Housing Related Support Programme. The Council has no legal obligation to support the majority of vulnerably housed 18 of 24 year-olds*, but faces a moral and financial choice whether or not to fund services it designed to help some of the most disadvantaged and vulnerable people in Derbyshire.
Left unchallenged and unchanged, these proposals would effectively remove all available support for this group – demonstrating a clear choice by The Council to abandon some of the most vulnerable young people in the county.
SAFE, which supports nearly 300 young people at any one time, was created just two years ago in response to an identified need by Derbyshire County Council. It says it will close after March 2016 if the proposals are approved.
The consortium is calling on members of the public to help change the Council’s mind by supporting its ongoing “Their Future – Your Choice” campaign. Launched just two months ago the campaign has already attracted nearly 1,000 supporters – who have added their name to a petition.
The consortium has also expressed shock and disbelief that the Council’s elected leadership (despite numerous suggestions to the contrary) has so far failed to address any of its concerns, and is urging members of the public to make their voices known during an upcoming public consultation by visiting www.frameworkha.org/theirfuture and:
- Writing to Derbyshire County Council Leader Anne Western
- Writing to their local Council Councillor and MP
- Joining a public petition
Andrew Redfern, Chief Executive of Framework, the lead partner in the SAFE consortium, said: “What the Council is proposing is not only illogical, irrational and unfair; it also directly contradicts its stated aims for the kind of young people we are supporting. Indeed, in the very same document in which these cuts are proposed, the Council has published a very clear list of its ambitions for vulnerably housed young people.
“It is quite extraordinary, then, that they are proposing at the same time to so dramatically undermine each and every one of these ambitions. When combined with the promises contained in the Derbyshire Labour Party’s manifesto for last year’s local elections (which made a firm commitment to support young people struggling with ‘complex problems during their teenage years’ and ‘facing a very uncertain future’) it is very clear that the Council is prepared to break its own promises.
“Make no mistake, if these cuts go ahead as planned this service will cease to exist in March 2016, leaving hundreds of the most vulnerable and excluded young people in our communities without the support they need. I am talking here about the victims of family breakdown, domestic violence and sexual abuse; people who have drug, alcohol and mental health problems; people who have been in the care system, involved with the criminal justice system and often have low educational attainment. We know that if these young people are not offered this kind of help now, they will present with far more challenging problems in future.
“What makes these proposals so hard to take is the fact this has been such a successful service. It has consistently performed well ahead of national guidelines and is acknowledged to save the public nearly £9 for every £1 that is spent.**
“We are not blind to the economic challenges faced by the Council and realise they have difficult choices to make, but the fact remains that they are now making an active choice to cut adrift some of the most vulnerable and excluded young people in the county. In doing so they risk abandoning them to a life of transient homelessness and social exclusion.”
Nathan, 21, explained: “Before SAFE I was worried about talking to people. I was behind with my bills and my tenancy was under threat. I was very anxious. SAFE helped me to get the support I needed from my GP and helped me to keep my tenancy by helping me sort out my bills and my debts. They were somebody to talk to while I got my life back on track. Without SAFE I would possibly have had my notice served and been homeless because my debts were mounting up so much. SAFE is so important because it helps young people like me get their lives back on track.”
Gemma, 24, added: “Before I got involved with SAFE I had a lot of debt and I couldn’t take care of myself or my flat. They helped me to get more focussed on life and helped me to be independent. Without them I would be in prison…homeless, or dead.”
Full details and resources to help supporters of the campaign are available at www.frameworkha.org/theirfuture.
*A small proportion of vulnerable young people supported by SAFE aged 16 and 17 would continue to receive support, however this would cease on their 18th birthday. Unless the young person is eligible for statutory support for another reason (e.g. disability) they would no longer be supported from public funds.
**Figures provided by DAST (Derbyshire Accommodation and Support Team) “The Benefits of Housing Related Support Services November 2013”