Fears have been raised over the ‘human cost’ of potential cuts to homeless aid in Kent.
Charity group Porchlight has warned of the “devastating” impact of the withdrawal of the £5million-a-year Kent Homeless Connect (KHC) service.
KHC helps homeless people find accommodation, jobs and medical appointments, but the service could be stopped by Kent County Council (KCC) on September 30 due to “serious financial difficulties” caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Covid.
Porchlight chief executive Mike Barrett said: “KCC faces some very tough decisions to balance its budget, but we are committed to doing all we can to highlight the human cost of cutting this vital service. “
Residents of Kent have been asked to share their views on next steps by June 6, as no clear alternative solution has been offered.
County Council is set to make cuts of £100m over the next three years, with KHC costing £15m over the same period, as it prioritizes other frontline services .
Cllr Clair Bell (Con), who is a member of KCC’s cabinet for adult social care and public health, said the proposed cuts were “not taken lightly”.
She said: “We are acutely aware of the vital need for support services for homeless people. This proposal was not taken lightly.
“We remain committed to ensuring that these vulnerable people can access the support they need.
“We are working hard with all of our partners, including district, town and borough councils, to develop transition plans which will show how support will be provided in the future and how changes will be made.”
Several Kent councils, including Dover, Folkestone and Hythe, Gravesham, Sevenoaks and Tunbridge Wells, are still in talks with County Hall to find a viable long-term solution.
Dover District Council (DDC) plans to increase the council-owned housing stock by 500 units to cope with growing pressures.
Meanwhile, Sevenoaks District Council said its Conservative cabinet would consider a formal response to the county council’s consultation in July.
A spokesperson for the council said: ‘We anticipate that KCC will continue to fund the service in some form in the future as a number of people supported by the scheme have care, health mental and physical disability, which KCC has a duty to support.”
Folkestone and Hythe District Council is aiming for a “smooth transition” while Tunbridge Wells Borough Council explores alternative options.
Meanwhile, Porchlight, which helps run the KCH service, says its staff will be encouraged to offer expert advice during the public consultation.
Mr Barrett added: “We will encourage our staff and other homelessness professionals to share valuable information about the support they provide to people who are homeless and have very complex health and social care needs, such as as serious mental illness, trauma and substance abuse issues.
“Many of these needs can only be met through the type of housing-related care and support provided by KHC.”
Kent residents and charity groups have been encouraged to speak out here.
If you have any questions, contact [email protected] or call 03000 42 15 53.