A CUT in funding for Oxfordshire’s homeless could help them become more “self-reliant” it has been claimed.
County councillor Judith Heathcoat, cabinet member for adult social care, made the claim while unveiling how Oxfordshire County Council planned to make a controversial £1.5m cut to grants for the homeless, the details of which were announced today.
The proposal was introduced in this year’s county council budget, which was approved in February, and sparked protests outside County Hall.
Cllr Heathcoat said: “The support is there for people. What we are trying to do with the grants is to teach people to be more self-reliant and self-resiliant.
“I want to see what the responses that come back from people using and providing the service are - they may come up with something we have not thought of that is innovative.
“I am as comfortable as I can be with the proposals, but we have to make savings and I am assured that all the statutory services will continue and that’s the important thing.”
Between 2010/11 and 2017/18 central government funding for the county council’s day-to-day revenue budget will fall by 39 per cent – or £96m.
It means £214,000 funding will be removed for the substance misuse service. But the authority’s public health team will commission some substance misuse services to the value of around £150,000 and contribute an extra £250,000 to the overall cost.Homeless hostels will lose around £400,000, with 23 beds in Oxford no longer coming with dedicated support services.
O’Hanlon House, Lucy Faithful House and Simon House will remain open with the same number of beds.
Some of Oxford’s hostels currently offer support to help the homeless address their problems and work towards tackling them.
For example at O’Hanlon House support staff work with them on personal development training, community work and video diary projects for people with alcohol issues.
But Nigel Northcott of The Porch Steppin Stone Day Centre in Magdalen Road said it was “completely stupid” to offer beds to the homeless without support to help them get back into work and find a home.
He said: “That is a bit like having a hospital bed but no staff. If there is no one there to look after them how are they supposed to get better?
“Organisations like us don’t support people who are homeless, we challenge them as well. You are not just running a hotel where people just sleep for the night, your staff ask what the reasons are for them getting into that predicament and how they can move on.”
Simon House in Oxford is run by housing company A2Dominion.
Pam Vasir, the company’s group director of supported housing, said: “We will continue to negotiate with the council and do everything in our power to help minimise the impact of the funding cuts for the people who need these vital services.”
The consultation runs until September 17. Take part at consultations.oxfordshire.gov.uk
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