Cabinet asked to approve proposals to award new contract for borough's homeless support service

5 October 2017

Cabinet will be asked to approve proposals to award the Council’s homeless support service contract to City West Housing Trust (CWHT) of the ForViva Group next Wednesday (Oct 11). 
The report asks for approval to implement a model that will see the council’s housing related and homeless services, currently run by four different providers, brought together into one cohesive support service.
All of the current contracts are due to finish at the end of March 2018 and the Council is now looking to ensure that the new service is more co-ordinated, efficient and continues to support more of the most vulnerable people within our borough. 
The recommendations follow more than 18 months of extensive consultation with residents, businesses, homeless people, service providers and the voluntary and community sectors.
CWHT’s proposal will provide a new approach with a number of key benefits:
  • a holistic and seamless service, joining up accommodation and support, including a newly commissioned daytime activities service, designed to prevent or reduce homelessness and create more stable and sustainable lifestyles
  • a greater range of accommodation, using more dispersed, smaller units, located across the borough and catering for the differing needs of individuals 
  • increased direct access provision (emergency beds) in a number of properties across the borough, which will be further increased during severe weather  
  • more focus on preventative services including hubs across the borough providing advice, information, training and group work
  • a ‘Housing First’ approach for some service users - which finds a property first and then places the support around the individual
  • outreach services and a Rough Sleeper Hotline
  • a respite and medical facility with clinical support for those who require it.
The new approach would also support the three strategic priorities of the Council’s Homelessness Strategy 2015-2020:  
  • reduce levels of homelessness and prioritise prevention
  • end the use of bed and breakfast and improve temporary accommodation
  • improve access to permanent accommodation and support.
Under the new model CWHT will maintain and strengthen working relationships with local voluntary and faith communities, to help to establish a more joined up and cohesive approach to supporting people who are vulnerable or homeless. The service will retain its commitment that nobody should spend a second night out and will continue to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
With these new arrangements in place Richmond Court will be able to close in 2018 and the new model will focus on providing smaller dispersed units across the borough which will rely on community engagement and maintaining strong relationships with local housing providers and landlords. 
Much of this accommodation is already in place and provides supported housing for people who would otherwise be homeless.  If appointed, City West Housing Trust will enter into discussions with the owners of these properties to agree their future use and local councillors and residents will be engaged and informed.
The report also recognises the impact the Homelessness Reduction Act, to be introduced next April, will have on the support for people who are homeless or threatened with homelessness to prevent them becoming homeless.
Cabinet Member for Housing, Councillor Angela Claydon said: “We are committed to reducing levels of homelessness on our borough’s streets and invisible homelessness like sofa surfing and tackling the fundamental causes. The model put forward has been created following extensive consultation and I thank the many people who shared their views and helped shape it.
“Having a stable and affordable home is fundamental to someone’s quality of life.  Whilst this is something that many of us take for granted, there are still too many individuals and families, who, for a variety of reasons, experience housing difficulties.
“We work closely with our partners and local community and voluntary groups to provide a range of services to support those who find themselves homeless or who need housing-related support but whilst excellent work is being done, homelessness is increasing.
“With more residents being placed in temporary accommodation we have reviewed our approach and shifted our focus to that of prevention. We can link vital services together in a more effective way to support those most vulnerable.”

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