Category Archives: Communities

Government releases £25m to tackle rough sleeping

Homeless person sleeping in tent on city street

One of Britain’s busiest announcers has made another announcement: housing minister James Brokenshire has declared that £25 million will be made available to assist rough sleepers.

The cash will be spread over 108 English councils and will be used to ‘fund innovative local schemes aimed at supporting people off the streets and into stable accommodation where they can receive the tailored care they need’.

These ‘local schemes’ will include

  • 20 new ‘Somewhere Safe to Stay’ rough sleeping centres – where people on the streets can access professional help and guidance, including immediate shelter and mental health support
  • Over 130 navigator posts – specialist support workers who direct people to the services they need, such as counselling, housing advice, mental health support or substance misuse services
  • 61 supported lettings schemes – helping people to secure tenancies in properties that they may not otherwise be able to access
  • 30 dedicated local letting agencies – specialist agencies that support vulnerable people into affordable and stable accommodation

The government says the 20 new rough sleeping centres will build on the 11 announced in December last year, which, the government boasts, exceeds ‘the commitment made in the Strategy’.

Brokenshire MP said: ‘We are taking steps to ensure people never have to face even one night on the streets.

‘These are vulnerable people, who may be dealing with complex mental health problems or addictions and require specialist support to tackle these issues and turn their lives around.

‘The funding confirmed today will ensure those sleeping on the streets have access to the professional help and guidance they need to get back on their feet – taking us one step closer to ending rough sleeping for good.’

And here, supplied by the government, is a case study:

In Gloucester, a Somewhere Safe to Stay hub opened earlier this year. In February, a man was referred to the hub and was confused, exhausted and suffering from memory loss. During his time at the hub, he was able to recuperate and was accompanied by a navigator to the health and homelessness team for assessment. His treatment helped him to remember details about his family and he was supported to reach out and reconnect with his family. He has since moved back to London to live with his relatives.

Elsewhere, Cornwall council will receive funding this year to trial a ‘roving hub’ across the county. This will allow services to rotate around three locations and engage with more rough sleepers, or people at risk. People will receive specialist, personalised support at the hub locations, linking them up with health and housing services so that, with the support they need, they can move on into settled and sustainable accommodation.

Listening, hearing and acting

 

By Alistair McIntosh, HQN CEO

That’s what a tenant in Wales told me she needs to see a lot more of. And she makes a fine point. Tenants do tell us what is going on. But do we listen and then fix it? Grenfell suggests that we don’t try hard enough. Do we give tenants the tin ear? Is this what lands us in trouble time and again? Yes, it is.

I’ve been in this game for more than 35 years so I’ve seen a lot of screw-ups. They’ve one thing in common: someone was always trying to tell us what was going wrong. Whether it was Connaught or Circle, the tenants were warning us of dire problems. What did we do? Well, it was too much, too little and too late every time.

Of course we need to get better at this. And we seem to be trying. You can’t move in most landlords now for polls, focus groups, scrutiny and staff beavering away on complaints. All of this was ditched the last time the money ran short. So we wait to see if this is heartfelt or just a sop.

There’s one very easy way to find out what is going wrong: why don’t you talk to the people in the call centre? They hear it all. But the top brass hardly ever go near them. Yes, you can tell how quickly they pick up calls and reply to emails. And you can pull out the rates of satisfaction. But that’s just filler for your board reports.

What you want to know is about the blocks with lots of repairs. Is that a sign of a bigger problem down the line? Are disabled tenants marooned by lousy lifts? The young people in the call centre will know. They can also pinpoint the ASB hotspots. So you’ve got to use them. Many of you have the software to pull off reports on trends on these things. Goodness know where they go. If and when inspection comes back, their first port of call will be the call centre.

That’s where you get the real stuff. Everything that comes afterwards is filtered to the point of uselessness. It passes through too many hands. In truth the landlord is defined by the young underpaid staff in the call centre, not the executives. That’s who the tenants deal with day to day. So try listening, hearing and acting on what they say.

It could save lives. Why do I say that? Do you remember when Toyota had to recall six million cars after a fatal crash? They’d seen two thousand reports about that defect. Crucially, the top brass ignored the suggestions made by more junior staff. By the end of it, 31% of Americans believed that Toyota cars were unsafe. Don’t let this happen to you.

It’s easy to avoid. Talk to the tenants and the call centre. Walk into that room now and see how hard they’re working. You might learn yourself something. Find out what vexes them and fix it. That’s how you keep out of the headlines.

(Source of data on Toyota: The Intelligence Trap – David Robson)

Council scraps £100 fines for begging

iStock-990872364.jpg

A local authority has given up trying to fine people £100 for begging after realising that the tactic doesn’t work very well, rather unsurprisingly.

Southampton City Council brought in the Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPOs) three years ago – and in that time 32 fixed penalties have been issued of which only one has actually been paid.

Conceding defeat, the council said: ‘Few of these fixed penalties were paid and they did little to change the behaviour of these individuals.’

However, an outfit that represents business types called Go! Southampton is demanding the PSPOs remain, as the problem is apparently getting worse and ‘professional beggars’ are operating ‘on a rota basis’.

In a letter to the council, GO! Southampton said: ‘PSPO is one of the few tools we have to combat the proliferation of beggars. Over the last 12 months, 60% of our businesses have reported that antisocial behaviour issues associated with begging have impacted their business.’

But according to the council, the likes of police action and community protection notices have been more effective.

Community wellbeing councillor Dave Shields said: ‘It’s not working and we would rather focus on the things that will work.’

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