Council cuts ‘could leave needy down and out’

Edinburgh City Council is set to make cuts. Picture: Scott Louden

Edinburgh City Council is set to make cuts. Picture: Scott Louden

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VULNERABLE people face “destitution” if plans to slash funding for groups which fight homelessness are pushed through, charities have warned.

They fear a proposed council budget cut will leave more people hungry or without a home.

A planned £1.5 million saving is part of wider council plans to save £67m across the Capital in the next three years – and comes after a £2.3m cut to charities’ funds last year.

The devastating impact of the proposed cutbacks has been outlined in a report by city homelessness charity body Shape. It claimed charity staff would be laid off, leaving desperate people waiting longer for help. Frontline workers could also go without vital training in dealing with the most vulnerable.

Charities say the cuts will prove counter productive in the long run, with more families falling behind on rent without support, forcing the council to undertake costly evictions.

The report warns that UK government changes to the welfare system would lead more people to seek the help of homelessness charities, just as resources are being slashed.

Ewan Aitken, chief executive of Shape member Edinburgh Cyrenians, highlighted the ­dramatic fallout suffered by a vulnerable person who ­suddenly loses support.

He said: “If your tenancy is under threat, or you’re having difficulties with your benefits, you need immediate help, and if we can’t get it to you quick enough, you could lose your tenancy unnecessarily, or you could find yourself unable to feed yourself or your family.

“The danger is it increases the threat of destitution because we can’t get to people quickly enough to provide the help they require.”

Mr Aitken added: “We always focus on service users first, but if we have fewer staff, then we can help fewer people – that’s just a given.”

Green party housing spokesman councillor Steve Burgess fears more people will end up on the streets if the cuts are pushed through.

He said: “Organisations helping homeless people in Edinburgh are already having their funding cut by millions, it’s clear further cuts will now result in more homeless people on the street and greater demands on public services.

“UK government cuts to welfare are also increasing the likelihood of people being made homeless, so we are ­calling on the council coalition not to make any further cuts to services for homeless people in the coming budget.”

Housing Leader councillor Cammy Day said the report would be considered while the budget was set, and added: “Tackling homelessness remains an important priority for the council and we work closely with our third sector partners to provide services for people who are homeless or at risk of losing their homes.”

paris.gourtsoyannis@edinburghnews.com