Yesterday in the House of Commons, Kate Hollern the MP for Blackburn spoke out against Tory funding plans which would leave many supported housing services fearing for their futures.
Kate Hollern MP also used the speech to pay tribute to the homeless shelter Bramwell House in Blackburn which does exceptional work.
You can watch the full speech here or read it below.
"We must all show our appreciation of the hard work and dedication of the staff of the charities and housing associations involved. We need to give them the respect they deserve. They do a difficult job, dealing with people with many challenges, and they do it in a positive way.
There has been a cloud over supported housing for some time, with shrinking budgets and uncertainty in welfare policy. These problems have come to a head with the Government’s proposed local housing allowance cap. Although the Government have already had the good sense to delay the implementation of that measure for supported housing, we know that housing associations have already had to factor the proposed changes into their budgets, and that they are now set to be introduced in April 2018. According to the respected National Housing Federation, this means that a staggering 41% of existing supported housing and sheltered accommodation places will be shut. Where will those people go?
I was recently invited to visit Bramwell House, a shelter for the homeless in Blackburn managed by the Salvation Army, a well-respected organisation. It helps and supports homeless people by providing accommodation and floating support to those who need it most. Others have accused the Salvation Army of scaremongering. I have to tell the House that the Salvation Army is not scaremongering; it is scared that it will no longer be able to provide the services that we know are desperately needed.
Bramwell House provides a safe and warm place to stay for people who would otherwise be sleeping rough. The services that it offers give some of the most vulnerable in Blackburn a life chance and an opportunity to change their outlook for the better. The main group of people who look to Bramwell House for support are single homeless people with support needs. Over the past 12 months, 413 residents have been supported there, and 83% of its residents have moved into other more suitable accommodation, which is a truly exceptional record. However, the benefits are so much more than simply offering a place to stay. Bramwell House helps to reduce rough sleeping, involvement in crime, reliance on the health system and demand for other social services in our community, and I find it regrettable that such places find themselves in peril because of short-termism in Tory housing policies.
Some may ask why supported housing should be exempt from the cap. In my opinion, it should be exempt because of the extra costs that are essential to providing the service. Many shelters need to provide staff 24/7, in order to offer real support to deal with the challenges facing these vulnerable people—something that I hope no one in this House will ever have to face. It is essential that the Government do all they can to ensure a future for Bramwell House and similar projects across the country. Homeless people’s futures should not be decided according to the whim of a Department for Work and Pensions that is dead set on cutting the housing benefit bill at all costs. So I hope that the new Secretary of State will look at this with fresh eyes and support the Prime Minister’s statement that this Tory Government are going to have a social conscience. I look forward to seeing the benefits of that.
I look forward to seeing fairness, and to seeing the Secretary of State introducing a long-term funding package so that supported housing schemes do not have to exist month to month or year to year. If the Government take steps to support supported housing, the providers will be able to focus on their great work of providing somewhere warm and safe to sleep, helping the vulnerable to live independently and, crucially, giving homeless people a chance to turn their lives around for the better."