A CHARITY which provides safe homes for vulnerable people is facing financial crisis after benefit changes saw its monthly income slashed.

Restore runs supported housing schemes for people who might otherwise end up sleeping rough.

It rents seven properties across York with its own staff and volunteers to support their tenants who include people with mental health problems and drug and alcohol dependencies.

But since March, ten of their tenants have seen their housing benefit payments halved by City of York Council, meaning Restore’s monthly rental income has dropped by £5,000, putting the charity into dire financial straits. Chairman Barrie Stephenson said the charity received a letter on March 6, explaining that ten of the tenants would in future only receive a lower “local housing payment”.

Complex benefit rules previously meant their tenants received a higher rate of housing benefit because of the extra support they needed, but the council has told Restore that auditors have advised it no longer needs to fund supported housing for people who, like Restore’s tenants, receive Jobseeker’s Allowance.

It is a situation the council says many local authorities are facing, but without the specialist support Restore’s staff can provide, Barrie said many of their tenants will return to their “chaotic lifestyles” and could lose their homes.

The charity has appealed against the council decision and is taking the matter to a tribunal.

In the meantime, it is having to use its own funds to cover the shortfall. Barrie added: “The tribunal could take anything from three to eight months to be heard, but we don’t have a bottomless pit of reserves to keep things going.”

Thanks to emergency donations from its supporters Restore has enough cash to keep going until Christmas, but the worry remains that the case may not be heard in time and the charity could fold and leave all its 26 tenants homeless.

The wrangle also means Restore’s expansion plans to take on further properties in York, and set up special housing projects for young people, have gone on hold.

With the case awaiting a legal judgement, the council has declined to comment in detail, but has said it commissions supported housing and refers those eligible to the right place.

Pauline Stuchfield, City of York Council’s Assistant Director of Customer and Business Support Services, said: “Where such claim reviews are disputed, we revisit the case applying the Housing Benefit and Council Tax regulations 2006 and informing claimants of the decision. Should an appeal be requested this is taken to Tribunal Services for a final decision.”


Chris stayed off streets

Chris was 19 when he was referred to Restore by City of York Council’s Resettlement Services. He was too old to stay in the Howe Hill young persons’ hostel which had previously been his home, but was not ready to find a home of his own and live independently.

He had nowhere else to go, and without Restore’s help, Chris said he would have found himself homeless. Even now, the loss of the charity’s services would be disastrous. Chris said: “If my accommodation was withdrawn I’d probably have to sofa surf or, worst case, be back on the streets.”

Now, 20, his support workers say Chris will soon be ready to move on, and Restore workers are helping him with the complicated processes of finding new housing to move on to.

Besides all this the charity has given him invaluable emotional support, built up his skills and grow in confidence, and helped him sort out his career prospects and organise training courses so he can go on to find work and live an independent life.