An open letter to Theresa May: Please help us to preserve and develop Birmingham’s shared society

Dear Mrs. May,

We write to you as a group of concerned local charity leaders, to appeal for your support in helping us to continue to work with Birmingham City Council to build and maintain your vision of a shared society in this city.

We represent a range of organisations delivering essential services to the city’s most vulnerable people in the fields of mental health, disability, homelessness, domestic violence, caring, substance misuse and offender rehabilitation – services which are facing unprecedented levels of disinvestment as the Council grapples with the need to deliver a balanced budget for next financial year. Council officers and elected members have been working intensively and constructively with us to find ways to deal with the current budgetary challenges. However, the imminent risks to the lives of vulnerable people are such that we feel we need to ask you for extra help.

A consultation is currently underway on proposed cuts of £5m, rising to £10m in 2018/9, within the Supporting People and Third Sector Grant Programme, which has already absorbed cuts of 50% from an initial total of £50m. If carried out, these additional cuts will erode the housing and housing-related support which underpins the infrastructure of a shared society in Birmingham, and directly disadvantage unprecedented numbers of at-risk local people, including at least:

  • 2000 people with mental health problems;
  • 1670 homeless single people;
  • 520 homeless families;
  • 950 people with learning disabilities;
  • 600 people with physical and sensory disabilities;
  • 2100 victims of domestic violence;
  • 4200 vulnerable young people, including care leavers;
  • 750 ex-offenders and those at risk of reoffending;
  • 787 people with drug and/or alcohol dependencies.

Our analysis indicates that the proposals would also place at risk an estimated £144m of levered income and critically destabilise a not-for-profit sector which has already absorbed disproportionate losses of funding. Our data shows that 50% of local not-for-profit services (including those providing preventative and rehabilitative support which reduce pressure on upstream and downstream provision such Accident and Emergency departments) report likely closure within 2 years should these cuts go ahead. In other words, the financial changes proposed would not be savings, but long-term costs borne by the most disadvantaged people in Birmingham.

In early December, Birmingham dealt with a very public tragedy, when rough sleeper Chiriac Inout was found dead outside a car park in John Bright Street in the city centre on the coldest night of the year. The death of a single homeless person is one death too many, yet we are now seeing reports that around 20 homeless people have died as a result of the wave of cold weather sweeping across Europe. We believe that further deaths in Birmingham are likely if these proposed cuts go ahead, and are therefore appealing for you to urgently increase housing support and social care funding to help ensure that Birmingham – a city with a proud track record in inclusivity but a disproportionately high number of social challenges – is able to meet the needs of all its citizens.

We warmly welcomed your commitment, given at the Charity Commission annual meeting on 9thJanuary, that government would step up to play an active role in tackling the “everyday injustices” which leave so many people in society feeling overlooked, and your recognition that charities and social enterprises have a key role to play in this agenda. However, it is not clear to us that there is a full appreciation at government level of the pressure on our local authority – pressure which is severely limiting its ability to meet its obligations to all the people of Birmingham.

On this basis, we would also like to meet with you to discuss our concerns and to share our ideas as to how local voluntary groups can work with local and central government to meet these current social and financial challenges. We would be happy to welcome you to Birmingham to visit us and our service users – or we can come to you if that would be easier.

Our history of working side-by-side with Birmingham City Council in supporting the people of this city is one we take great pride in. As partners, we and the Council are now faced with a catastrophic sea-change in our current and future resource-base, one which would permanently disable our ability to meet the needs of society’s most vulnerable people. Once these services are gone, they will be virtually impossible to regain. We respectfully ask for your practical and personal help in ensuring that the shared society in Birmingham isn’t dismantled, and is instead supported to flourish for the benefit of all.

Yours sincerely,

Brian Carr, Birmingham Voluntary Service Council

Maureen Connolly, Birmingham and Solihull Women’s Aid

Helen Wadley, Birmingham Mind

Dave Rogers, Midland Mencap

Jean Templeton, St Basils

Natalie Allen, Birmingham Changing Futures Together

Chris Bates, Birmingham Rathbone

Tom Harrison, Midland Heart

Paul Wright, Fry Housing

Matt Green, Crisis

Muna Choudhury, Ashram Moseley Housing Association
Gail Penberthy, BID Services

An open letter to Theresa May: Please help us to preserve and develop Birmingham’s shared society

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