Government accused of breaking pledge on 'workhouse' hostels

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Indy Politics
PROMISES TO replace squalid, workhouse-style hostels for single homeless people with new accommodation have been broken by the Government, it was claimed yesterday.

Despite a policy announced in 1985 that all the large, institutional hostels, known as resettlement units, would be replaced, 15 remain in use, six of them in London. They provide dormitories for about 1,400 homeless people, mainly men, many of whom have drug or alcohol-related illnesses or mental health problems. An increasing number are young.

According to a survey by the Housing Campaign for Single People (Char) published yesterday, the conditions are appalling: 'It's like a cesspit,' one resident complained. Although the Department of Social Security set aside grants for replacing the units, almost pounds 6m remained unspent from 1989 to 1991. Last week the DSS informed the managers of five hostels that Ann Widdecombe, Under-Secretary of State, had approved a policy of seeking tenders to transfer them to voluntary groups.

In its report, Broken Promises, Char calls on the Government to continue its commitment to the closure of all the hostels and their replacement with smaller emergency units and good quality, permanent accommodation.

The report will be sent to the Social Security Select Committee due to examine the work of the Resettlement Agency, set up to oversee the closures.

In another report, to be considered soon by the Public Accounts Committee, the National Audit Office criticises the Resettlement Agency for failing to meet its targets and mismanaging the financing of replacement programmes, resulting in delays and some closures occurring before adequate alternatives were provided.