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Early March saw the announcement from housing minister Grant Shapps of a new £5 million fund to tackle homelessness in London.
The new funding initiative, to be administered by the Greater London Authority [GLA], was launched by Mr Shapps and London Mayor Boris Johnson, who stated that the cash will only be available to organizations that can prove their success in reducing rough sleeping. This Social Impact Bond is designed to ensure that the money only goes to those who get results.
These results are understood to include reducing numbers on the streets, diminishing hospital admissions and moving rough sleepers into accommodation and work. The plan is that Social Impact Bonds will be paid for by the savings they create in other areas of government expenditure.
London has been the recipient of this funding boost because of the actions taken by the London Delivery Board to end rough sleeping in 2012. London Mayor Boris Johnson said: “In just three years we have made some real strides towards ending rough sleeping in London. We have already helped three-quarters of the capital’s most entrenched rough sleepers off the streets and seen a massive reduction in the number of people spending a second night outside.
“However, much remains to be done if we want to reach our goal of ending rough sleeping in London this year and we must get out there and help those persistent rough sleepers, who are often battling with hugely complex addiction and mental health problems, to find a new life off the streets.”
The funding from the Social Impact Bonds comes after official figures released in February showed a rise in the numbers sleeping rough, with only eight months left to achieve the goal of ending rough sleeping in London by the end of 2012.
At the launch of this scheme, Mr Shapps said: “We have made great progress, but if we are to have any hope of ending rough sleeping for good we must take a new approach. That involves stopping those without a bed from coming to London in the first place.
“But it also means using innovative schemes such as Social Impact Bonds to make sure the best charities are rewarded for success in securing stable homes and jobs. That’s why I’m backing those organisations with new ideas for helping persistent rough sleepers with a new £5m payment by results scheme, to ensure that these charities who pull out all the stops are rewarded for their efforts.”
Of course, with funding dependent on demonstrating success, we asked the Department for Communities and Local Government [DCLG] whether it was possible that organizations might construct street count figures or target easier cases in order to prove themselves successful in meeting targets. We were told this was not the case.
A spokesman at the DCLG told The Pavement: “The Social Impact Bond is designed to attract investment from charities and trusts to drive innovative solutions to resolve the deep problems of a specific group of 700 vulnerable rough sleepers. The aim is to deliver a permanent positive change in their lives and savings to the taxpayer.
“Success will not be measured by a one-night street count snapshot. We will be agreeing how success is measured with the GLA and successful VCS [Voluntary and Community Sector] bidders.”