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Homeless Charities Warn of Funding ‘System Collapse’

A man with a neurological condition which meant he struggled to know how to find support says he saw homelessness as his only option.

“I literally saw no way out apart from homelessness or killing myself, frankly. I saw absolutely nothing,” Steven Lewkowicz, 24, said.

Mr Lewkowicz, from Swansea, was £3,000 in debt and had spent his savings.

It comes as charities and voluntary groups warn of a funding crisis that threatens the services they provide.

Steven told the BBC’s Politics Wales programme the help he received from homeless charity Llamau is “partly why I am still here”.

He experienced mental health issues while at university and ended up homeless. Steven has since been diagnosed with autism.

“Young people are struggling. The money crisis, councils going bankrupt, people being poor – they are going through hell,” he said.

“I am an example of someone who needed help. But there are definitely more like me.

“There are others worse off than me.”

Llamau and others described a “perfect storm” of crises all happening at the same time.

Covid, its aftermath, a scarcity of public funding, the cost of living crisis, a rise in the National Living Wage – which means staffing costs will go up – and the energy crisis, have all combined to give the sector a big headache.

The end of European funding since Brexit has also caused issues.

Llamau described its replacement – the UK government-administered Shared Prosperity Fund – as “incredibly complicated” with bids for funding needing to go through a number of local authorities or regions rather than one application.

Welsh charities are now warning of the toughest financial situation many of them have faced.

“We need them [Welsh government] to prioritise the sector,” said Llamau’s operational director Sam Lewis.

The Housing Support Grant (HSG) is estimated to be worth £24m less to the sector in real terms than it was 13 years ago because of inflation.

Ms Lewis said the UK government is “not getting” levels of deprivation in Wales and needs to look again at the funding settlement it gives to the Welsh government.

“Without the HSG being uplifted, the further behind the sector is being left in being able to recruit and keep fantastic colleagues,” she said.

Latest figures suggest 40%, or £500m, of Welsh charities’ funding comes from the public sector – sources such as governments, health boards and councils. A further 40% comes from donations.

However, charities say they are braced for next year’s Welsh government draft budget – published on 19 December – to be brutal.

At Rhondda-based Valleys Kids, which runs community projects “from cradle to grave”, a third of its turnover comes from public funding.

Elise Stewart

“I can’t tell you about the knots in my stomach and the butterflies,” said chief executive Elise Stewart at its Porth base.

“I’m scared, of course I’m scared. I’m scared for the communities, for the people who use services, for the people who provide those services. And I shouldn’t be the only one who is scared.”

A UK government spokesperson said: “The Welsh government is currently receiving the largest funding settlement from the UK government in the history of devolution.

“We are providing a record £18bn per year settlement, which is still increasing in real terms over the 2021 spending review period.”

A Welsh government spokesperson said that charities were being supported through its third sector scheme.

“We recognise the immense pressures facing frontline housing support services and the importance of their work,” they said.

“This is why we maintained the previous increase to the Housing Support Grant budget this year so that it remains at £166.763m, despite the extraordinarily difficult budgetary position.”

Source : BBC