Nottingham rough sleeping crisis … how it happened


You’ve seen the heaps of makeshift bedding in Nottingham’s shop doorways and car park stairwells, and perhaps a grunt or a movement suggesting life under the covers.

The number of regular rough sleepers has risen from a mere handful at the turn of the decade to almost 40 this chilly November. After years of keeping a lid on the problem, how on earth did we let that happen?

“Welfare reform is a factor – the bedroom tax, the welfare cap and sanctions for not complying with the rules on applying for Jobseekers’ Allowance,” says Andrew Redfern. “Then there is the shortage of housing and the disappearance of the Government programme Supporting People.”

And all this must be seen in the context of the six-year squeeze on public spending – six years in which Government cuts have impacted on local councils, with serious consequences on the financing of local initiatives to help the homeless…………….

…………”From 2001 to 2010 I felt we had a handle on the homelessness problem,” said the director of Nottingham Help the Homeles. “It was not Utopia, but rough sleepers were picked up very quickly.”

Things changed with controversial benefit reforms, the inability of a recession-hit Britain to hit housing targets and the loss of the Supporting People programme.

Supporting People, backed by a £1.7 billion budget, allowed local public services to execute schemes for helping vulnerable people.

“It was an example of a national policy working well and was regarded as a success,” said Mr Redfern. “But then, when Gordon Brown became Prime Minister, its ‘ring fence’ was removed and when the coalition Government began making cuts, Supporting People stopped showing as a separate item and became wrapped up in general local authority funding.

“From that point it was dead. As cuts were imposed on local authorities, it effectively disappeared.”

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