In the run-up to the Assembly election coming on Thursday May 5, Homeless Connect developed a manifesto to take to political parties putting forward candidates.
We worked with our members and our policy forum to develop the manifesto. It includes ten policy proposals which, if enacted, would make a real difference in preventing and reducing homelessness here.
As polling day nears, we are going to publish a series of blogs unpacking the ten proposals and explaining why they matter.
For all our Assembly Election 2022 coverage (including the rest of our own manifesto) click here.
Introduce multi-year budgets to allow for long-term planning and delivery of homelessness services.
Since 2015, budgets in NI have been given on a single year basis. This is not an effective way to operate public finances, as it does not allow services which rely on public funding to properly plan and develop services for the medium to long term. Such budgets can lead to inefficient spending, with public authorities seeking to get scarce resources spent before the end of a financial year to ensure the money is not lost back to the UK Treasury.[i]
The homelessness sector receives substantial funding from the NI Executive, particularly the Department of Communities. Over the last seven years, the sector has been negatively impacted by the inability to effectively plan for the future.
Homeless Connect welcomed the proposal of the draft budget for 2022-2025 when it was put forward by the Department of Finance. While we were concerned about the content of the budget and its potential impact on housing and homelessness, we believe operating on the basis of multi-year budgets is the right approach to take.
With the collapse of the NI Executive, the proposed draft budget for 2022-2025 was lost. The budgetary situation going forward remains uncertain, as it is unknown as to whether (or when) the Executive itself will return.
It is our hope that a fully functional Executive will return in the next mandate and we call on all of our political parties to commit to introducing multi-year budgets when that happens.
[i] NI Audit Office, “The Northern Ireland Budget Process,” https://www.niauditoffice.gov.uk/files/niauditoffice/NIAO_Report_NI%20Budget%20Process%20Report_Combo_4_WEB.pdf