Cash-strapped council leaves housing charity homeless in Borders

A HOMELESS charity has revealed it has been forced to close its advice service in the Borders after cash-strapped council chiefs cut its funding.

Shelter Scotland has expressed “deep disappointment” at the decision by Scottish Borders Council to cease its support of the Scottish Borders Advice Project which has helped more than 430 people over the last four years.

It is understood the local authority had until now funded the cost of one full time post to manage the service at a cost of £25,000 per year.

However, efforts to secure alternative funding from local housing organisations also failed.

Graeme Brown, Director of Shelter Scotland, told the Border Telegraph: “Despite our best efforts to find a solution we are very disappointed at having to close down the Scottish Borders Advice Project.

“We acknowledge that councils face tough decisions regarding budget cuts but it is still sad to have to lose a good value-for-money service that has advised more than 430 people over the last four years, helping prevent many Borders residents from homelessness and repeat homelessness.

“With the cost of just one case of homelessness conservatively estimated at £5,000, we just hope that cutting homelessness advice services doesn’t turn out to be a false economy.”

Last year, the housing charity slammed Scottish Borders Council’s lack of progress towards meeting the 2012 commitment to end homelessness as “unacceptable”.

Meanwhile, the local authority, which recently announced plans to cut 200 jobs following public sector spending cuts, has been criticised for spending £100,000 on three new electric cars for social work staff, £14,000 refurbishing a lamppost in Galashiels, £4340 on a prime-time television advert to promote a new helpline number and £780 to a private contractor to raise and lower the flags at the Town Hall in Lauder.

Cathie Fancy,Group Manager – Housing Strategy & Services at Scottish Borders Council, said: “The Council is very aware of the importance and, of its statutory duty and obligation to provide housing information and advice hence the reason that all our homelessness officers have now been trained to Homepoint Standards through the Shelter process.

“Councils are under significant financial pressures to reduce budgets, that’s why we are drawing the contract for this specialist housing advice project to a close and will rely on our trained officers to provide a top quality homeless prevention service – to support and assist vulnerable people who may be facing a housing crisis.

“The Council is presently implementing its dedicated Homeless Prevention Service to offer more comprehensive housing options and support to enable people to resolve their housing need. We recognised that Shelter also offers a free national helpline. Applicants may also wish to use this service and will be informed of the helpline number. SBC thanks Shelter for the excellent service over the past few years and we look forward to continuing to work in partnership through officer liaison.”

Homeless people in the Borders can still receive housing advice by calling Shelter Scotland free on 0808 800 4444 or log on to the following website –