The Salvation Army has highlighted the potential impact of a proposed policy change on its homelessness services and called on the Lib Dems to back an exemption for hostels at a dinner in London last night.
The church and charity hosted the leader of the Lib Dems, Tim Farron MP and a team of party volunteers at an annual Christmas dinner at its No. 10 homelessness drop-in centre in London. A policy discussion took place between the group and representatives of The Salvation Army’s Homelessness Services Unit, where The Salvation Army raised its concerns about the proposed change in social rents.
Under the Government’s proposal, all registered providers of social housing in England will be required to reduce the amount of rent they charge by one percent a year for a period of four years. If hostels are not exempted from this change, this could have a serious effect on homelessness provision around the country.
In response to calls from a wide range of charities, amendments were tabled that would exempt ‘specified accommodation’ such as hostels from this one percent rent reduction. This Clause of the Welfare Reform and Work Bill is due to be debated in the House of Lords on the 21st of December. The Salvation Army is calling on all Peers to protect services for vulnerable women and men by supporting the proposed amendments.
Captain Keith Greer, Regional Manager of The Salvation Army’s Homelessness Services Unit in London said:
"The Salvation Army is concerned about the potential impact this one percent social rent reduction will have on our provision of homelessness services.
“If hostel beds for people who are homeless are not exempt from these changes, this will reduce The Salvation Army's income by £544,000 over the next four years. If our costs continue to increase over the period, our actual loss could even be up to £1.5 million. That kind of loss could have a real impact on the service we are able to provide.”
Tim Farron MP, leader of the Lib Dems, said: “It is ludicrous for homeless shelters to be caught up in the net of welfare cuts when they meet the needs of some of the most vulnerable people in the UK. With rising rents and a huge shortage of affordable homes, residential homeless shelters are needed now more than ever.”
“The Salvation Army does brilliant work all year round to help some of the most vulnerable people in our communities. It was a pleasure to meet guests at the drop-in centre while they enjoyed their Christmas Dinner and discuss with staff the funding cuts that homeless charities are facing.
"The Salvation Army put their faith into action to provide safety, security and a sense of self-worth for people whose lives have been turned upside-down. Thank you for all you do.”
The Salvation Army is one of the largest providers of homelessness services in the United Kingdom.