£1.5m cut in homeless help will ‘escalate human misery’

Lesley Dewhurst shows a copy of the letter to Jackie Andrews and Tracy Jones who use the night shelter at O’Hanlon House. Main picture: OX64761 Damian Halliwell

Lesley Dewhurst shows a copy of the letter to Jackie Andrews and Tracy Jones who use the night shelter at O’Hanlon House. Main picture: OX64761 Damian Halliwell

First published in News Herald Series: Photograph of the Author by , Education Reporter, also covering West Oxford. Call me on (01865) 425437

SEVENTEEN leading figures have urged Oxfordshire County Council leaders to reconsider plans to cut £1.5m from homelessness services.

The signatories to the open letter – which was sent to leader Ian Hudspeth, chief executive Joanna Simons and director of social and community services John Jackson – include the Bishop of Oxford, Oxford East MP Andrew Smith and Oxford Brookes Pro Vice Chancellor Professor John Raftery.

Herald Series:

Rt Rev John Pritchard, Bishop of Oxford

As part of plans to save more than £64m, the council is proposing a £1.5m cut to its budget for housing-related support.

The letter says cuts will result in “human misery”, increase costs elsewhere and escalate problems.

The letter states there has been an increase in homelessness in the county, with 172 applications for help for housing between July and September last year, up from 166 the year before.

It also says there were 19 people sleeping rough in the latest homelessness count.

It adds: “We acknowledge the difficulties faced by the county council and the competing cases put by every service that will be affected.

“However, there are powerful economic arguments against these particular cuts. Homelessness is expensive.

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“The per capita use of public services such as acute medical care, drugs treatment services, prison and police services is far greater by people living on the streets than the rest of the population.”

Bishop John said: “These funding cutbacks are a human and social tragedy.

“A society is judged by the way it treats its most vulnerable members and I fear we are failing the test.”

Herald Series:

Andrew Smith MP

Mr Smith said: “As well as the human misery this would cause, I don’t think it will really save any money, because without the help of homelessness support, many of these people will end up in hospital, in police cells or in prison.”

Lesley Dewhurst, chief executive of Oxford Homeless Pathways, which runs a shelter in Luther Street, Oxford, said: “We have been very pleased with the large amount of public support we have been getting for our campaign against these proposed cuts to homelessness services.”

Mr Hudspeth said: “We take all reductions in funding very seriously and this year it is particularly challenging.

“The housing spend grant is actually something which is not a statutory function of the county council. This has been reduced over the last 10 years by central government and in previous years we have subsided it. It is the district councils which are responsible for housing and homelessness and this is one of those situations where you have got to look at what you are responsible for.”

A peaceful protest is planned by staff, clients and supporters of Oxfordshire’s network of homelessness and domestic violence services outside County Hall on Tuesday ahead of the council’s cabinet meeting at 2pm, when the cuts will be discussed.

So far, more than 2,000 people have signed an online petition urging the county council to review proposed budget cuts. The authority also hopes to cut £7.1m in adult social care and £1.5m in highway maintenance.

THE SIGNATORIES

  • Rt Rev John Pritchard, Bishop of Oxford
  • Rt Hon Andrew Smith, Oxford East MP
  • Professor John Raftery, Pro Vice Chancellor, Oxford
  •     Brookes University
  • Rev Canon Glyn Evans, Deputy Lord Lieutenant, President Oxon Rural Community Council
  • Stephen Czajewski, Director, Thames Valley Probation
  • Jill McCleery MBE
  • Sue Raikes OBE
  • Leslie Morphy OBE, CEO Crisis
  •  Rick Henderson, CEO Homeless Link
  • Dr Nigel Hewett OBE, Medical Director Pathway, University College London
  • Jeremy Swain, CEO Thames Reach
  • Bebe Speed, Consultant Family Therapist
  • Patricia Goodwin MBE
  •  Councillor Mark Cherry, Banbury Calthorpe
  • Rev Andrew Bevan, Littlemore Baptist Church
  • Rev Peter Ball, County Ecumenical Dept Officer
  • Karen Hewitt MBE
  • To sign visit change.org/en-GB/petitions/oxfordshire-county-council-review-the-proposed-38-budget-cuts-for-housing-related-support

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