Local Council Leaders warn of ‘catastrophic effect’ of Suffolk County Council Budget plans

12 Feb 2024

The Leaders of Suffolk’s district and borough councils have warned of “a catastrophic effect on hundreds of Suffolk’s most vulnerable residents” should proposals contained within Suffolk County Council’s budget for 2024-25 be agreed.

Cllr John Ward (Babergh), Cllr Caroline Topping (East Suffolk), Cllr Neil MacDonald (Ipswich), Cllr Andrew Mellen (Mid Suffolk) and Cllr Cliff Waterman (West Suffolk) have written to the county council, expressing their grave concern with the proposed changes to Housing Related Support (HRS); a temporary housing scheme which assists people in the care of Suffolk’s Social and Children’s Services.

HRS is a model which helps individuals learn the skills needed to live independently prior to rehousing by district and borough councils, and it is a vital part of the pathway to prevent or relieve homelessness. However, Suffolk County Council now intends to remove all funding, and decommission the scheme by March 2025, having signed a five-year contract with support providers only just over a year ago.

In the letter sent to Suffolk County Council, the Leaders have urged the authority to work with district and boroughs, and to reverse this decision, which they believe does not consider the longer-term impacts - not just on the county’s most vulnerable people, but on the budgets that this approach will supposedly relieve.

They wrote: “The Housing Related Support service provides over 700 accommodation places, delivered through multiple specialist providers. These specialist providers, many of whom are charities, provide support to tenants to help them live independently. This service is not available via any other route, and we understand that there is a waiting list of around 400 people.

“The client groups for Housing Related Support are amongst the most vulnerable in Suffolk.  They include 16- and 17-year-olds who have no family with whom to live, 18-year-old care-leavers and unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. They also include young people who are also parents. Without your supported accommodation, many of these children and young people will add further pressure to your Children and Young People Services budget.

“Clients also include adults with mental health conditions or learning disabilities, a history of drug or alcohol dependency, or those being released from prison.  It’s likely that the lack of supported housing for these individuals will place additional pressure on your other Adult and Community Services budgets. 

“If people who previously qualified for Housing Related Support, are left without accommodation then rough sleeping will increase. We know that this will impact on these vulnerable people’s health, that they are more likely to begin or continue substance misuse, and to suffer from mental health issues. The impact of this will increase demand on other county council services which are already stretched.

“We recognise that times are tough and that difficult decisions need to be made. But we believe that a decision to end Housing Related Support is short-sighted and will haunt Suffolk County Council in years to come as the implications come to fruition.”

Cllr Cliff Waterman, Leader of West Suffolk Council, said: “These cuts if they go ahead it will be catastrophic to the lives of some of the most vulnerable in our communities including care leavers, teenage parents and adults with mental health conditions or disabilities.

"It will mean the loss of more than 170 bed spaces in West Suffolk alone and 700 across the whole of the county.

"In addition to the devastating impact to people’s lives, it won’t actually save taxpayers money. The impact will be felt by district councils in terms of increased demand for temporary and emergency accommodation. Some of it will come back to county in terms of their statutory duties to Children and Young People and Adult Care Services, increasing its costs. And it will also lead to increased housing and benefit costs not to mention extra pressure on the NHS.

“We understand that Suffolk County Council’s budget is under huge pressure. But this decision is wrong. It’s wrong for the people it affects, it’s wrong for the taxpayer and that’s why West Suffolk is not alone in asking for the county council to urgently reconsider its proposals and work together with all local councils to find a solution.”

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