At the sharp end of hous­ing cri­sis

The Peterborough Evening Telegraph - - Town Hall View - John Holdich

There’s been much de­bate in the past week about the sharp rise in the num­ber of peo­ple in hous­ing dif­fi­culty in the city and the im­pact of this on our bud­get.

Pe­ter­bor­ough is no dif­fer­ent to other cities, but as one of the fastest grow­ing cities in the coun­try we are cer­tainly at the sharp end.

The issue we have is that de­mand for so­cial hous­ing is far higher than sup­ply and as a re­sult we are hav­ing to place more peo­ple who re­quire tem­po­rary ac­com­mo­da­tion in bed and break­fasts, and in ex­treme cir­cum­stances, bud­get ho­tels.

To put it into per­spec­tive, an av­er­age of 60 to 90 peo­ple per month came to us as home­less in 2012 - this rose to 150 in Au­gust.

Changes to the ben­e­fits sys­tem have had an im­pact on many fam­i­lies, in par­tic­u­lar the changes to hous­ing ben­e­fits which see peo­ple who are un­der-oc­cu­py­ing their prop­er­ties pe­nalised.

The in­tro­duc­tion of uni­ver­sal credit, which in­volves in­di­vid­u­als be­ing given their ben­e­fits di­rectly, has led to fewer pri­vate land­lords ac­cept­ing peo­ple on hous­ing ben­e­fits.

This is not just my opin­ion, char­ity Cri­sis says home­less­ness is on the rise na­tion­ally due to a short­age of hous­ing, the on­go­ing ef­fects of the eco­nomic re­ces­sion and re­forms and cuts to hous­ing ben­e­fit.

Shel­ter hit the nail on the head when it said that coun­cils are stuck be­tween a rock and a hard place, bat­tling with stripped back bud­gets, an over­whelm­ing num­ber of home­less fam­i­lies and a dras­tic short­age of homes.

I have no doubt that the changes in­tro­duced na­tion­ally were well meant, how­ever we and many other coun­cils are now hav­ing to man­age the un­in­tended con­se­quences.

But it mat­ters not who is to blame, the onus is now on us to make sure we can sup­port those we have a duty to whilst bal­anc­ing our bud­get.

We keep a close eye on our fi­nances through­out the year so that we know where the pres­sures are and as a re­sult we have been able to find a so­lu­tion that should help bring our bud­get back into the black.

We will be us­ing 74 prop­er­ties on St Michael’s Gate in Parn­well, owned by so­cial hous­ing provider Stef and Philips Lim­ited, as tem­po­rary ac­com­mo­da­tion.

We’ll be pay­ing a nightly charge for use of the ac­com­mo­da­tion, to­talling £966,337 each year.

If we were to ac­com­mo­date the same num­ber of house­holds in B&Bs it would cost us in the re­gion of £2.4mil­lion so the sav­ing is clear to see.

Mak­ing use of these homes will give us greater ca­pac­ity to meet the de­mands of peo­ple need­ing our sup­port and redu- ce our spend on more ex­pen­sive ac­com­mo­da­tion.

More im­por­tantly it will of­fer a bet­ter stan­dard of ac­com­mo­da­tion for peo­ple who need our help, pro­vid­ing them with a home with a front door.

This is just one ex­am­ple of the many ways we are work­ing more imag­i­na­tively to be able to sup­port our most vul­ner­a­ble res­i­dents with an ever re­duc­ing bud­get.

Only this week, my cab­i­net col­leagues and I ap­proved a new part­ner­ship with The Ado­les­cent and Chil­dren’s Trust (TACT), the UK’s largest fos­ter­ing and adop­tion char­ity and agency, which will se­cure fos­ter­ing and adop­tion ser­vices for the long term.

Not only will this save the coun­cil in the re­gion of £1 mil­lion when it’s up and run­ning, it will also en­able us to re­cruit and re­tain more lo­cal fos­ter car­ers.

It’s a tough task meet­ing the needs of more and more peo­ple with less money, but we will con­tinue to think in­no­va­tively to en­sure we can sup­port those res­i­dents need­ing our help the most.

Iwas hum­bled last week to at­tend a cel­e­bra­tion evening for the city’s fos­ter car­ers. It’s al­ways a great op­por­tu­nity to say a big thank you to them for all their hard work and ded­i­ca­tion. I spoke to two cou­ples who be­tween them have fos­tered more than 1,000 chil­dren over 40 years!

There’s al­ways a need to at­tract more peo­ple in­ter­ested in fos­ter­ing.

If you want to find out more there’s an event at the Town Hall tonight be­tween 6pm and 8pm or you can visit www.pe­ter­bor­ough­fos­ter­ing.co.uk

The front page of last week’s Pe­ter­bor­ough Tele­graph

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