Consultation on Reshaping Homelessness Support Services Begins

A CONSULTATION on a review of the services the Council provides for individuals who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless has been launched today (Monday 27th February).

Homelessness Support Services are commissioned by Reading Borough Council to support rough sleepers, provide bed spaces for individuals and couples who are homeless and help prevent households becoming homeless.

Contracts with the providers of these services end in April 2018 and the Council is looking to re-model the services so it can provide more flexible and innovative ways of helping those in need.

At the same time, the Council is looking to reduce the cost of these services and make a budget saving of £244,550 per annum. This would reduce the total budget for Homelessness Support Services to £1.25m, a 17 per cent saving.

These savings are in response to unprecedented ongoing cuts in the main grant income from national government. Government funding for Council services in Reading has been cut from £57.5 million in 2011/12 to around £10 million in 2017/18. By 2019/20 that figure will be cut to less than £2 million. The Council has already agreed £70 million worth of savings since 2011. Latest estimates are that another £44 million needs to be saved by 2019/20.

The Homelessness Support Services the Council currently commissions are:

·        a rough sleepers outreach service that supports rough sleepers to access supported accommodation or reconnect with their area of origin.

·        217 supported accommodation bed spaces for individuals/couples who are homeless, collectively referred to as the Homelessness Pathway.

·        A cross-tenure floating support service which supports individuals, couples and families with homelessness prevention.

Council officers have considered national guidance, explored new ways to tackle homelessness and taken into account best practice in other local authorities to find ways to reshape the service.

Proposals include creating a hub in a central location for services to co-ordinate immediate and emergency responses to those individuals who are homeless or sleeping rough.

The hub would also include emergency bed spaces, assessment bed spaces for homeless people with a local connection to Reading and would host the SWEP (Severe Weather Emergency Protocol) which comes into action during short periods of severe and cold weather.

The new model would also include: 24-hour intensive and engaging support for individuals with complex issues; working towards independence for individuals who are struggling to manage independent living and pre-emptive and preventative support for households and families at risk of becoming homeless.

The proposed changes to the services will be out to public consultation from 27th February and can be viewed on the Council’s website at:

Councillor Richard Davies, Reading’s Lead Member for Housing, said:

“We would not choose to be making savings in this service at a time when homelessness continues to rise nationally and locally and when rough sleepers are very visible in the town.

“However, due to ongoing severe cuts in central government grant, every council service has to look at ways of reducing spending.

“Having said that, a review of these services is due and I am confident we can arrive at a detailed proposal following the consultation which will offer the best homelessness services that can possibly be achieved with the funding available.”

Members of the Council’s Policy Committee approved the consultation into the proposed service changes and savings at their meeting on Monday 13th February.

The consultation will begin on 27th February and close on 31st March. Responses to the consultation will be reported back to Policy Committee by May 2017.

David Millward

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