The City Council will enter into a pooled budget arrangement with partners across the county to fund adult homeless supported accommodation in Oxfordshire.
The decision, taken by the City Executive Board on 15 September, will see the Council contribute funds from its existing budget provision towards the pool for three years, initially.
Other parties to the proposed arrangement include Oxfordshire County Council, Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group and Oxfordshire District Councils. These will also be seeking approval of the proposal through their decision making processes during September.
Due to its budget pressures, Oxfordshire County Council made a decision in February 2016 to cut Housing Related Support funds with effect from April 2017, with a complete withdrawal of funds from 1 April 2019. Housing Related Support currently funds two homeless hostels and 177 beds in other accommodation for people from Oxfordshire.
The City Council repeatedly indicated its opposition to these cuts, which it felt would hit some of the most vulnerable people in the County very hard, and would inevitably lead to an increase in rough sleeping at a time when it is already rising.
In light of the grave threat posed by these cutbacks to provision for homeless people, the City Council, through the Oxfordshire Health Improvement Board, took the opportunity to propose a joint, pooled arrangement with all relevant organisations in order to mitigate the impact of the reductions, although they will still have severe effects. A pooled budget has been proposed in the first instance – to which all district councils, the County Council and the Clinical Commissioning Group would contribute financially – that would be used to fund a reduced level of supported accommodation for homeless people in the future.
Oxford City Council’s contribution to this pool - £161,700 – would come from the £1.4m Homelessness Prevention Funds the City Council currently allocate to homeless services within the city.
Cllr Ed Turner, Deputy Leader of Oxford City Council, said:
“There is a desperate need for accommodation and support for homeless people in the City, and it is sad that the County Council reduced funding for this service, due to its overall financial situation. Rough sleeping numbers are rising, as is the pressure on homeless services.
We have been proactive to try to mitigate the worst impacts of these cuts. By working together with our partners in the Districts, as well as with the County Council and the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning group, we are certain that we will be in a better position to continue to have some services in place.
The proposed arrangements for the future will mean a reduction in units. However, it would provide more units for the City than we would have been able to provide outside of this kind of arrangement.”