By Local Democracy Reporter Ciaran Duggan
A homelessness charity has described a decision to cut aid to some of the most vulnerable people in society as “devastating”.
Kent Homeless Connect, which provides specialist housing-related care and support for homeless people and those at risk of homelessness, will be decommissioned by Kent County Council (KCC) in September 2022.
Porchlight, one of several organisations who help run the service, says it has been a “lifeline” for thousands of people across the county.
Mike Barrett, Porchlight’s chief executive, opposed the decision made by the Conservative administration during its budget meeting on Thursday.
He said: “With the pandemic and cost of living crisis pushing Kent residents to breaking point, it is needed more than ever. ”
His comments come after an emotionally charged and heated debate at the Kent Showground in Maidstone.
It was revealed that around 6,500 Kent residents are at risk of homelessness, including those with complex needs, such as mental health, drugs and alcohol.
KCC Tories said it was a “difficult” decision made on financial grounds in order to balance its budget amid a “challenging” Covid period.
The county council pays around £5million for the service every 12 months.
Cllr Peter Oakford (Con), KCC’s cabinet member for finance, said: “This has been an area of focus because we know how difficult it is at the moment, but the cost is too high.”
Ongoing talks to transition the running of the support service are being conducted with other district and borough councils.
Cllr Clair Bell (Con), who is KCC’s public health cabinet member, added: “We will work with them on an individual basis to talk about this important work.”
KCC Liberal Democrats submitted an emergency motion to extend KCC’s running of the Kent Homeless Connect service by another six months from September 2022. It comes as demand has grown for the use of the service.
Cllr Anthony Hook (Lib Dem), a KCC opposition leader, said: “This decision will drive hundreds of people onto the streets and put more people at risk.”