United Kingdom

Homeless shelter ‘may have to close doors if energy support is canceled’

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Omelessness organizations could be forced to close their doors “with consequences that could cost lives” if energy support is not continued beyond March, more than 30 groups have warned.

Homeless services are increasingly concerned about the prospect of Energy Bill Relief Scheme (EBRS) support ending in four months, Business Secretary Grant Shapps has been told.

An open letter, coordinated by Homeless Link and signed by 32 groups including Shelter and St Mungo’s, says services are already cutting costs and scaling back support as inflation rises and donations decline.

On average, services predict a 141% increase in their energy costs in 2023/24 if they do not continue to receive EBRS after March.

Even if support continues at a lower level, the impact will remain extreme, the groups believe.

Clearly, failure to expand the EBRS would be disastrous, with unsustainable costs forcing many homelessness organizations to scale back their work even further, and in some cases even close their doors.

According to the UKTN, the government is reportedly considering plans to keep energy bill support for all UK businesses, but at a less generous level.

In November, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said the government will have to focus aid only on the most vulnerable industries and likely also cut the aid they receive, deeming the estimated costs unsustainable.

In the letter, the groups write: “It is clear that failure to expand the EBRS would be devastating, with unsustainable costs forcing many homeless organizations to scale back their work even further, and in some cases force them to open their doors all together. to close. .

“This would mean fewer places to sleep and support options available to the increasing number of people experiencing homelessness, with consequences that would cost lives and be felt for years to come.”

A homeless accommodation provider said annual utility bills are expected to rise from £50,000 to £125,000 when support ends next spring.

It said it had “already canceled three two-bedroom properties” due to rising costs and warned: “If prices continue to rise, we will wind down as a charity”, resulting in “evictions” and “everything related to 70 people become homeless”.

Rick Henderson, CEO of Homeless Link, said utility bill support has been a “lifeline” for homelessness services, which are primarily funded by municipalities, with budgets agreed before inflation started to rise.

“But there is great concern in the homelessness sector that this support will end in a few months,” he said.

“Having to bear huge energy costs will force services to scale back their work or even close their doors.

“This warning comes at a time when all indicators show that homelessness is on the rise, with a very real fear that people experiencing homelessness will not receive safe, trusted support if the government pulls the plug on the EBRS scheme. ”

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