Responding to a call from Councillor Paul Longshaw and MP Rebecca Long-Bailey, the University of Salford has been working to convene the 'A Place to Call Commission since 2016. Below is the statement put together by the commission.
What we are facing:
We are in a period of crisis. At the national level, inequality is steadily growing and poverty and homelessness are increasing due to austerity and government spending cuts. Poverty and homelessness are also impacted by a lack of social housing, lower wages and zero hour contracts, rising costs of living and private rents, an increase in sanctions and reduction in services. Funding cuts, benefit caps and reduction in benefits for under-35s have already meant the closure of a number of agencies including: hostels, supported housing, emergency housing, support services, prevention and advice services, and twenty-four hour drop-in and crisis services. Those who find themselves homeless often feel alienated within current systems. Many staff members are now experiencing lower salaries, longer working hours and job insecurity. High staff turnover makes the building of meaningful relationships between those using the services and other organisations increasingly difficult.
In Salford this has meant the closure and centralisation of services, leaving many areas without any support within their own community and transportation a growing issue. Members of Salford’s communities face increasingly poor physical health, poor mental health and growing isolation. At the same time, cuts have affected support for recovery from alcohol and drug addiction, two problems experienced particularly keenly here and often used as a way of coping.
There are many more cuts to come.
The gaps that need closing in Salford:
The greatest gap is the availability of accommodation, above all we need to create more housing that is genuinely affordable to Salford’s residents.
Other gaps have grown since the rise of austerity, particularly after the closure of a whole range of housing and support options for those in crisis. There is very little ability to undertake preventative work, though ideally that is where the focus should be. There are fewer and fewer temporary housing solutions, and fewer and fewer services to support and care for people. There is very little remaining in place to help single people, women, couples, prison leavers and people who want to keep their pets. The increased focus on online access caused by the cutting of frontline staff has left many without the ability to access services.
There are not enough funds for core services, much less available money to take the risks with that make innovation possible. Service silos remain, along with a lack of communication and cooperation between agencies and third sector groups.
Hidden homelessness is a problem
People experiencing benefit sanctions are also at increased risk of homelessness
The ‘A Place to Call Home’ Commission:
We recognise a need to close these gaps and challenge the status quo, and only collectively can we have a hope of having an impact.
We would also like Salford to have a greater voice and impact in discussions occurring at the level of Greater Manchester.
The commission represents a renewed coming together of the many different people and organisations whose collective work will be needed to end homelessness here in Salford.
Those who have experienced or are experiencing homelessness will be central to this process, working along the community sector, faith sector, business and social enterprise, Salford Council, Housing Associations, and the University of Salford.
The commission will work to celebrate the successes of both people and organisations to positively challenge common understandings of homelessness.
It will work to improve communication.
It will work to build and improve partnerships.
It will provide a forum to share best practices and generate innovation, along with the research needed to support both.
Principal Investigator: Anya Ahmed
Co-investigator: Andrea Gibbons
Funding source: HEIF