DEVON County Council leader John Hart is pausing plans to stop funding support for homeless people.

The council currently provides financial support to organisations helping people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless even though it does not have a statutory responsibility to do so.

The proposal to cut the discretionary spending was originally made to help the council balance its books in response to soaring demand for its statutory services.

The council’s contracts with providers will now be extended until the end of March 2024.

In the meantime the council will continue to talk to Devon’s eight District and City Councils, working together to agree a way forward that ensures ongoing homelessness support across the county.

Councillor Hart made the announcement having listened to members of the public speak passionately of the impact that the proposed cuts could have on them and others at a special scrutiny committee meeting. 

Mr Hart has since had further discussions with senior council officers, including its Chief Executive, Donna Manson, who is meeting regularly with District Councils’ housing services to discuss a way forward.

Councillor Hart said: “It’s clear to me from having listened to those who spoke passionately at our recent meeting, and the concerns from homelessness providers and others, that we need to take stock and understand more fully the impact of any proposal. 

"While Devon County Council does not have responsibility for housing or homelessness directly, the issue of homelessness has significance across a great deal of what this council does to improve life for the people of Devon - whether that is in terms of good Public Health; our support to young people and especially our care leavers; as well as our adult social care services. 

“We need to better understand the full impact of such a decision on all aspects of our public services, including the impact on our Team Devon District and City Council partners. 

"Therefore, I am putting a pause on the decision, so that we can have a full and frank discussion with our eight District Council Leaders and officers.

"I also want to involve other agencies, such as the Police and Public Health, and to see a full and accurate picture of the different situations across the county.

"By the end of this calendar year, I want to have a joint view on the way forward, and a design for how the service will work in future that can be agreed by all of our District Council Leaders and myself.

"In the meantime, we will extend our current contracts with providers until the end of March 2024.”