Concerns that Shelter could become a 'virtual charity'
Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Communities
The UK's biggest union, Unite, has voiced concerns that housing charity Shelter's proposals to cut 105 frontline staff will leave it a "virtual charity".
The union believes that the plans could not come at a worse time with the Government's cuts and changes to housing benefit imminent.
Shelter is currently considering closing 10 frontline housing advice services.
The charity's chief executive, Campbell Robb, said: "Sadly we have had to take the difficult decision to propose the closure of 10 of our housing advice services. This is a result of the huge cuts to legal aid in England, which we campaigned vigorously against. These cuts have left us facing a 50 percent reduction in our legal aid funding to support our face to face advice services."
While recognising that Shelter has lost £3m in legal aid funding from government, Unite says that more must be done to save frontline services and staff.
Unite is now calling on Shelter’s CEO and the board of trustees to put the closures ‘on hold’ so that alternative funding proposals can be considered, including diverting funds from additional spending earmarked for campaigns, helpline and digital advice expansion.
Unite is also asking that any excess from Shelter reserves, which Unite believes to be about £7.9 million, be used to support face-to-face services during the period of the new legal service contracts (LSC).
Sally Kosky, Unite national officer, said: “When this government slashed legal aid and council funding it knew full well the consequences. You cannot starve organisations of funding, slash benefits and expect business as usual. The government has an obligation to provide help for those made desperate by its austerity obsession, and we’ll keep the pressure on to remind them of it.
“For the past 45 years Shelter has been the voice of some of society’s most vulnerable citizens. Pulling the plug on frontline services now, when the government’s brutal benefit cuts are about to hit, is a bitter blow for the staff and the thousands that rely on their advice.”
Campbell Robb added: "If these services do have to close, this will be a massive blow to people in these areas who will no longer be able to get face to face advice and support from Shelter. We will be doing all we can to ensure people around the country can still get help with their housing problems through our helpline and website.
"With the ongoing recession, benefit cuts, and the high cost of housing meaning more and more people struggling to keep a roof over their heads, now is the very worst time to be taking away the housing safety net that helps people stay in their homes."