Charities warn homeless will suffer if HSE cuts continue

Groups see funding fall 20% over four years

Further HSE cuts to the budgets of homeless charities could see them turning away people in need of emergency accommodation. Photograph: Alan Betson /The Irish Times

 

Four years of cuts by the HSE has left groups on average 20 per cent down on funding, a survey by the Dublin Homeless Network shows.

But some groups are 30 per cent down on their funding and have had to make staff redundant, increase working hours while freezing pay and cutting back on some services.

“The next stage will see people bring turned away and services closed,” said Roughan Mac Namara of Focus Ireland.

The HSE was “sabotaging State policy” by imposing the cuts since Government’s policy was aimed at ending long-term homelessness by 2016, he said. The Department of the Environment and local authorities were backing this policy by making minimal cuts to homeless services, he added.

Groups were particularly concerned at HSE warnings that despite cuts of between 3 and 6 per cent already imposed this year, budgets could get cut again later in the year. “There is a lack of clarification on budgets .... which makes planning very difficult,” said Mr Mac Namara.

“This survey makes clear that homeless services are now at breaking point and if the HSE hits us again cuts will fall on direct services to the most vulnerable in our society,” said Catherine Maher, chairwoman of the Homeless Network which represents over 20 homeless groups.

The work of Sonas Housing, which operates a refuge and provides long-term housing for women and children experiencing domestic violence, has been “stripped back”, said Paula McGovern, policy and communications officer with the group. The group no longer can provide confidence building workshops to women and there are fears basic services to women will be affected if there are further cuts. “We are running things highly efficiently and we are making sure we can do all we can with the budget we have,” she added.

The refuge run by the group in Dublin 15 already refuses four out of five women who seek help and further cuts could see even more women turned away. “Demand is far outweighing what we have on offer,” said Ms McGovern.

Pressure is being put on the refuge because women are staying longer because finding long-term housing is even more difficult as a result of a lack of social housing, she added.

A statement from HSE Dublin Mid-Leinster, which serves south Dublin, said “all services operate in line with HSE 2013 funding”.

It also said the HSE gave extra funding at the end of last year to allow for additional beds in the Ushers Island Detox Respite Stabilisation Unit.