Sunday 19 November 2017

Charities for homeless are 'not value for money' - report

Review warns Kelly funding may be wasted by overlapping services

The report was carried out on behalf of Alan Kelly Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins Dublin
The report was carried out on behalf of Alan Kelly Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins Dublin
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

The Government has been warned that homeless charities may not be providing "value for money", despite receiving almost €100m in State funding every year, the Sunday Independent can reveal.

An independent review of taxpayer-funded homeless agencies found overlapping services and administration costs mean some of the multimillion euro funding that the sector receives every year may be squandered on duplication.

The report - undertaken by consultancy firm Mazer, and carried out on behalf of Environment Minister Alan Kelly - found more than 75 organisations received €95.9m in funding in 2014. And based on an average of 5,000 people currently without homes, this means the State spends almost €20,000 per homeless person every year.

However, this does not take into account the amount of money raised by agencies through donations, charity shops and other investments, which brings the sector's total income to almost a quarter of a billion euros.

The Government has been under ongoing pressure over the worrying levels of homelessness in Dublin and other urban areas since the death of homeless man Jonathan Corrie outside Leinster House in December 2014.

Mr Corrie's death sparked waves of protest and anger among the public over the coalition's reaction to the housing and homeless crisis.

Homeless charities roundly condemned the Government's inaction and demanded increased funding to tackle the escalating homelessness situation.

However, the Department of the Environment's independent review of homeless services has, for the first-time, raised serious concerns over how State funding is allocated to numerous organisations.

The report called on the Government to examine if funding dozens of separate agencies is "efficient use of limited funds and the most effective mechanism to deliver services".

It says the funding of a large number of service providers means money spent by each group on "administrative, establishment or support-type costs" may not represent the "best use of limited resources".

It also urges the Government to review the level of "crossover" and "duplication" of services provided by various homeless groups, as this could result in wasted resources.

"Whilst it is not clear if the wide-ranging needs of service users could be provided without the efforts of these and similar organisations, it does suggest that there may be a lack of integration in service delivery within the sector, leading to duplication of effort, lack of specialisation, disjointed provision of supports to service users, and a risk of lack of value for money," it states

The report also warned against spending on emergency homeless services rather than long-term solutions.

Currently, 38pc of all state funding is allocated to emergency accommodation, while 20pc is spent on transitional and supported accommodation and 15pc on semi-permanent housing.

However, the report notes that this spending is at odds with the Government's commitment to end long-term homelessness by the end of this year through the supply of more houses.

"The current prioritisation of spending on emergency and night-shelter accommodation, which appears to be increasing, whilst addressing a specific situational need, does not appear to reconcile to that objective," it states.

It calls for the introduction of standard reporting forms, which agencies would have to submit before receiving funding. This would allow better analysis of resources.

The authors of the report said, as it was a "desk-based" review, centred on paper records and financial reports, they could not make comprehensive findings or recommendations on groups providing value for money.

A full review involving all agencies involved in homeless sector was recommended as the next step.

Sunday Independent

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