Published: 13:30, 01 February 2022
| Updated: 16:04, 01 February 2022
Calls have been made to save a "vital lifeline" in place for homeless people across the county.
Kent County Council (KCC) is proposing to cut the £5 million Kent Homeless Connect service in light of "significant" and rising costs amid the pandemic.
It also comes amid growing demand pressures faced by the county's largest authority to maintain frontline services from April 2022 to April 2023.
Kent Homeless Connect, which is delivered by Porchlight and Look Ahead, helps people who are already homeless or are at risk of losing their home.
Porchlight chief executive Mike Barrett has warned that people need the help of this support service more than ever.
He said: "The proposal to cut Kent Homeless Connect comes as we are seeing a large increase in people who need its help.
"We know KCC faces difficult decisions about its budget, but Kent residents are struggling with the emotional and economic effects of both the pandemic and the cost of living crisis.
Mr Barrett also revealed there had been a "sharp rise" in calls to Porchlight’s helpline, which is working with a greater number of people at risk of homelessness.
Some may also suffer from other complex needs that require support, such as mental ill health, problems with alcohol or drugs, or trauma from abusive relationships.
Mr Barrett added: "We want to keep this vital lifeline in place for the people who need it more than ever.
"This is why we are working hard with Kent County Council, local councils and other support providers to find alternatives to cutting Kent Homeless Connect so we can keep this vital lifeline in place for the people who need it more than ever."
KCC says it is considering allowing the £5m contract to come to its natural end at the end of September 2022.
If cut, transitional arrangements would be made after October 2022 and over the next two years.
Talks are being held with Kent's 12 district and borough councils to consider alternative solutions.
KCC's cabinet member for public health, Cllr Clair Bell (Con), said the council must make "challenging decisions" as the authority prioritises the running of other frontline services, such as adult social care and school transport.
She added: “Should the decision be made on February 10, we are committed to continue working closely with our district and borough partners, providers, landlords, those who use the service and their representatives.
"We want to ensure that the service is brought to a safe conclusion and to ensure continued partnership working in 2022/23 and beyond.”
Some local authorities in Kent have expressed concerns about the plan.
Swale Borough Council yesterday said the proposed cut to the homelessness support group could prove a "costly decision".
Cllr Ben Martin (Lib Dem), cabinet member for housing at Swale, says the cuts have "come out of the blue".
He said: “I wrote to councillors to ask them to help us avoid what could prove to be a costly decision that leaves some of the most vulnerable people in our communities without the support they need to keep a roof over their head.”
County councillors will vote on the proposed budget for the next financial year at a public meeting on February 10.