Mayor demands more to help the homeless
GREATER Manchester’s mayor has issued a no-nonsense ultimatum to all public sector bosses saying not enough is being done to tackle the escalating homelessness problem.
Andy Burnham is demanding all organisations – including councils, GP leaders, the police and housing providers – take urgent and ‘immediate’ action and come up over the next fortnight with plans to tackle the problem.
Mr Burnham has grown frustrated in recent months at the rising number of rough sleepers on the streets and believes more short-term measures could be taken to reverse the trend, alongside longer-term plans to build new shelters and reform the housing sector.
He is particularly keen to see vacant public buildings used as shelters – particularly as winter sets in – and to ensure all homeless people have access to GP services. The region’s public sector chiefs were already due to meet on October 6 to discuss ‘life readiness’ among teenagers, but in a blunt letter to them the mayor says the topic of that meeting has now been changed to homelessness.
“As mayor I have asked individuals, businesses and the voluntary sector to do more, and they have, now it is time for the public sector to increase the urgency with which it responds to homelessness and rough-sleeping,” he writes.
“I want you to think about what your organisation can do individually and what you can do collec- tively, working together with other public sector partners. I am requesting that each body brings ideas of actions that can be taken immediately and in planning for a longer term solution.”
He lists a number of specific suggestions, including asking the NHS to ensure GPs provide treatment to homeless people whenever they need it, looking for vacant properties owned by housing providers or other parts of the public sector that could be opened up, and looking at how all authorities can work together.
The letter has been sent to chief executives of all ten councils, as well as the region’s chief health officer, Greater Manchester housing providers, the county fire officer, clinical commissioning leaders, mental health providers, the Department of Work and Pensions and the chief constable. “This problem is escalating and needs to be gripped much more fundamentally by the system,” Mr Burnham added.
Baroness Joan Bakewell with head girl Polly Whiteley and head boy Sami Zaman
Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham tours Manchester to meet the city’s homeless