A Leicestershire homelessness charity has warned it might have to close if a council does not renew its funding. Falcon Support Services, based in Loughborough, said without the money it currently received from Leicestershire County Council it would not be able to keep the Falcon Centre – a 30-bed hostel for those needing a place to sleep – running.
The centre sees around 100 people a year sleeping under its roof. Charity deputy chief executive officer (CEO) Rachel Hall told LeicestershireLive the charity was seeing in increasing number of people who needed its help, with referrals up by 42 per cent in the past five years.
While the £300,000 it gets from the council annually is not a huge amount for the charity, the contract between the two makes it eligible for housing benefit support as it means it meets the criteria for exempt accommodation, Ms Hall said. This, she added, was vital to keep the venue running. The county council is considering not renewing the contract when it runs out next year due to budgetary pressures.
Ms Hall said the effect of not being able to get housing benefit support from the Government meant the withdrawal of the council cash would have a much bigger impact on the charity than the loss of the money alone. "It has knock-on effects and consequences," she said. "We also deliver all our community and health services from the centre as well, so if we were to lose that building, we wouldn’t be able to deliver those services from there."
She told LeicestershireLive that while the charity understood that the grant "needs to be reviewed and that funding cuts and savings need to be made", there was still a need to "[make] sure there is some homeless service there”. “The numbers are going up, rough sleeping is going up as well as homelessness as well over all,” she said. “That’s been evident in the last 12 months in particular after the pandemic, after the ban on evictions was lifted and with the cost of living. I think we’re seeing that all come to a head. It’s a challenging environment.”
However, Leicestershire County Council has a gaping hole in its finances and needs to save around £90 million over the coming years. Currently, the funds it offers to Falcon go towards helping people maintain their tenancy, develop skills to live as independently as possible and to access local health and well being support. It does not go towards the 'bricks and mortar' nor any beds in the centre.
“We’d just like to be able to get around a table and talk,” Ms Hall said, adding that she wanted the county council to understand it was not just the money at stake, but withdrawal could set in motion a chain which c
While the council has a public health duty, it does not have a responsibility towards housing the county’s homeless nor those at risk of becoming so. That duty lies with the district and borough councils, as the local housing authorities. The county has said it believes it can maintain its skills and public health support for the homeless community through an existing provision available to all county residents - the First Contact Plus teams and local area co-ordinators.
Ms Hall spoke to LeicestershireLive as the authority’s cabinet met to approve a consultation over whether the funding to Falcon should be withdrawn. Members emphasised that a final decision over the money was still to be made, and that council was seeking views at this stage.
Speaking at the meeting, on Friday, June 23, Councillor Louise Richardson, lead member for health, said a consultation would be an opportunity to look at how support was delivered and how existing services could put greater emphasis on the health and well-being of those who were homeless, or at risk of becoming homeless.
Coun Richardson added: “It’s regrettable we have to look at service changes and cuts, but we have a tough financial outlook here and that means we have to make some tough decisions. As you’ve heard, the funding doesn’t pay for the bricks and mortar, nor the running of any homeless hostel. It pays for support to individuals."
“Looking at national guidance, we don’t believe [the centre will lose Government support], but it would really be up to the charity to discuss this with their local housing authority. The county council can’t be the provider of last resort.”
LeicestershireLive understands a meeting has now been arranged between the council and the charity.
Wardkhian/GettyImages), (Image: Chanin (2023) Homelessness charity warns it might have to shut if funding ends, LeicestershireLive. Available at: https://www.leicestermercury.c... (Accessed: 18 July 2023).