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‘We simply do not have the money’, West Sussex Council claim after horror over cuts

Leader of Crawley Council says the cuts will ’cause untold misery’.

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A Crawley hostel which has helped keep thousands of homeless people off the town’s streets since its opening in 1996, could be forced to close.

Leader of Crawley Borough Council Peter Lamb has launched a petition which has already gained over 2,700 signatures in just one day. The petition demands that West Sussex County Council rejects proposed cuts to their Housing Related Support budget. Cuts that could be detrimental to services such as Crawley Open House.

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In his statement, Peter Lamb says: “West Sussex County Council has announced that from next year they plan to cut their entire Housing Related Support budget, a decision which is likely to mean the closure of every homeless shelter in West Sussex and the loss of support for many vulnerable and elderly residents at home.”

Sign the petition: www.change.org/p/louise-goldsmith-save-crawley-open-house

Mr Lamb goes on to say:

“This decision will deprive the most desperate members of our society of somewhere safe to go, it is a deeply immoral act and in time the affects will be felt by the whole community.

“Just two weeks ago, the Government re-announced their manifesto commitment to end rough sleeping by 2027, yet we now we see the county council attempting to rush through under the radar a decision which is set to make the problem far worse.

“This petition demands that West Sussex County Council rejects the proposed cuts to Housing Related Support, which will cause untold misery for the most vulnerable members of our society, and instead maintains this vital support for our local homeless.”

Conservative Councillor for Tilgate, Francis Guidera is also angered by the proposed cuts. He said: “The good work of Crawley Open House absolutely must be funded and must continue. I’m really angered by this! There has been cross party support for the Open House for decades for good reason. It does amazing work, is very much needed and always will be.”

Funding to support services like Crawley Open House used to be provided to the County Council via a  government grant as part of the ‘Supporting People programme’. It was ring-fenced within local authority funding to provide housing-related support services for vulnerable adults, including single homeless people.

However, after this was removed in 2011, West Sussex County Council has had to continue to fund services from its base budget. This is seemingly an expense it can no longer afford – Crawley Open House say the value of the contract is approximately £250,000.

In West Sussex County Council’s ‘Forward Plan‘, it states:

“In view of the discretionary nature of the services involved it is proposed that consideration be given to whether the service is sustainable and so the Cabinet Member will be asked to approve a process which would lead to the termination of current housing support contracts with providers from April 2019 onwards.”

Crawley Open House, Stephenson Way, Crawley.

Crawley Open House released a statement yesterday:

“Crawley Open House is alarmed by the West Sussex County Council ‘Forward Plan’ which was published on August 29th 2018. More specifically, the plan to ‘approve a process which would lead to the termination of current housing support contracts with providers from April 2019 onward.’

“Crawley Open House runs a twenty four bed hostel for homeless people with a Crawley or West Sussex connection.

“The hostel has been partly funded by West Sussex County Council through a housing support contract. In 2018-19, the value of the contract is approximately £250,000, which pays for our front line hostel staff twenty four hours a day, three hundred and sixty five days a year.”

“Providing supported housing is, by definition, a way of helping vulnerable people to achieve the most basic and fundamental of needs. A need recognised by Government in its recent Homelessness Reduction Act (2018) and Rough Sleeping Strategy which aims to eliminate homelessness by 2020.

“Since Crawley Open House opened in 1996, we have helped many thousands of homeless and disadvantaged people through their darkest times and back on to their feet. At the moment, we are helping more people in need than ever before through our hostel, day centre and in the community.

“Demand for our help has increased year on year and the current socio-economic climate shows no sign of things improving for those that are already struggling. In fact, Crawley was recently recognised as the poorest local authority in the South East of England for social mobility.

“With all of the above in mind, we are deeply concerned to hear that we may lose the support of West Sussex County Council should they move forward with their plans to terminate our contract with them. Reducing our grant to zero would seem to contradict governmental aims and would have a devastating effect on our ability to meet the needs of disadvantaged people already facing overwhelming challenges.

“If we are forced to radically cut back our services to the people of Crawley and West Sussex or even to close our doors in April 2019 then the true cost of this decision will have to be met by already overstretched services such as Crawley Borough Council, the NHS, Sussex Police, etc., at a cost far greater than the planned saving.

“We urge West Sussex County Council to reconsider their plan and to continue to work with Crawley Open House to meet the needs of the homeless and disadvantaged.”

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West Sussex County Council have responded to questions posed by CN24. Although unable to provide a date when final decisions will be made, and not able to comment on the impact these cuts will have on services like Crawley Open House, they have addressed the question of why these cuts have to be considered.

A spokesperson for West Sussex County Council said:

“Local authorities across the country are having to make really difficult decisions about how to spend their ever decreasing finances and West Sussex is no exception. In West Sussex we have an aging population which means people are living longer with more complex health conditions and needing more support. At the same time the complexity and vulnerability of the children we support continues to increase. We simply do not have the money to continue delivering the services we currently deliver in the same way and we want to have a really open conversation with our residents about the decisions we have to make to make around spending their money.

“We are determined to continue to meet our responsibilities whilst making sure we live within our means, and that’s why we have to take some tough decisions. These are not decisions we want to make but ones we are forced to make because the available government funding is insufficient for the needs of our residents. We are acutely aware how much all of our residents, particularly the most vulnerable, rely on us to keep them safe, supported and well.

“Supported housing projects help a number of vulnerable people including those who are homeless, rough sleepers and ex-offenders. We no longer have dedicated funding for housing support from central government and the services we provide are not statutory unlike many others which are under pressure. We recognise that making savings in this area could lead to an increase in pressure on other services in the long-run and we will work closely with our partners in the voluntary sector and other local authorities to find ways to keep the impact of any funding changes to a minimum.

“We will open consultation on the future funding of these services next month, including a scrutiny committee meeting on September 27th. This will allow a consultation with affected stakeholders to take place before any final decisions are made by Cabinet Members. As we are just starting this process we are not yet at a stage where we can comment on the potential impacts on individual services or provide a date when final decisions will be made.”

Following West Sussex County Council’s response, Crawley Council Leader Peter Lamb has hit back.

In a Tweet, he said:

“Open House gets £250k, last year’s INCREASE in @WSCCNews budget for Policy and Comms alone was £300k. That took 5min looking at their accounts. Given time, I’d find the rest. There’s always money, there’s always choices. Apparently West Sussex prefer spin to helping the homeless.”

Moments later, Councillor Lamb Tweeted again, this time directing it towards the Leader of West Sussex County Council Louise Goldsmith:

Sign the petition: www.change.org/p/louise-goldsmith-save-crawley-open-house

News

Young woman raped in Pound Hill, police seek witnesses

Police in Crawley are investigating the rape of a 22-year-old woman on a local path in Pound Hill.

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At about 10pm on Thursday 13 June, the woman was walking along the footpath which runs between Somerville Road and Worth Park Gardens when she was attacked by a man who raped her before making off.

He is described as white, in his forties, about 5’10”, with short dark hair including grey streaks, and a beard. He was wearing dark jeans, black shoes (not trainers) and a blue t-shirt with a logo of some kind.

Detective Inspector Karrie Bohanna of the West Sussex Safeguarding Investigations Unit said;

“We have been working with the woman, with specially trained officers, to understand the full circumstances and to ensure she has further expert support and advice.

“Our investigation is ongoing and we have been making enquiries in the area. If you were in the Pound Hill, Worth Park Gardens area at around that time on Thursday 13 June, and saw anything suspicious, please get in touch with us online by calling 101, quoting serial 810 of 16/06.

“We would particularly like to identify and contact three people who may be able to help us. Following the attack the victim went to the nearby pub, Tavern on the Green, and sought directions. She spoke with two men there, one of whom escorted here to her address.

“The third person is a woman walking nearby with a black dog about 15 minutes before the attack. The woman is described as white, about 5’7” and with long dark hair, wearing a dark jacket.

“This appears to be an isolated incident for the area and not part of any pattern. Please let us know if you can help.”

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