We know that the Tory led government policies are forecast to increase homelessness substantially, with national forecasts showing scary figures. Here in Reading we are already seeing an increase in homelessness and we are worried about what the new year will bring.
As an administration the Labour group is committed to standing up for Reading and for residents, and one of the most vulnerable groups is rough sleepers. We already have a strong partnership with excellent voluntary sector groups who we fund to provide us with an appropriate mix of hostel places, but we know that we need to up our game to meet the challenge.
Today we are announcing a consultation on proposals that will increase the number of beds and also ensure a more streamlined, easy to navigate pathway for both the person who finds themselves homeless and for the agencies involved.
We've worked in partnership with the voluntary sector involved to come up with these proposals - and they also save the council money, essential when we are facing stringent budget cuts.
Labour councils are dealing with tougher funding cuts than Conservative councils, because of the way the government has dealt the cards. We are the opposition and we got get to change that. But we can play our hands as best we can - our responsibility is to make the best of it for the people we represent. There will be hard choices, but by sticking to our Labour values we can make a difference. It's a noticeable contrast to last year's Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition who simply made cuts without involving those affected and hoped that a solution would appear later.
I've seen on the political blogosphere the debate about whether we should get out and protest or whether we should focus just on elections. Frankly I think it's a pointless debate and a distraction: of course protest movements can work, and can change the decisions that people in power make but it's much easier to do that when you have people in positions of power who share your values. For me, there are some things I will march about (the NHS being one thing) but my elected role is where I personally feel I can make a difference.
David Cameron wants councillors to be community champions, and I'm afraid that is what he's going to get: Labour councillors who will stand up for residents and do what they can to reduce the impact of his destructive policies on their neighbours.
Reading Borough Council press release:
Accommodation for homeless people in Reading is set to increase, under Council proposals aimed at delivering better value for money.
As a result of the Council's review of its Homeless Pathway scheme, the number of beds available for homeless people in the borough will go up by 24 to 224.
This will mean more places for couples, women, people with pets and those who might need longer-term supported housing.
The proposals, which include the continuation of the recently formed access panel which assesses people's needs and ensures they are directed towards the most appropriate support, have already been agreed between the Council and individual key providers. The proposals as a package will now be discussed with other public bodies and voluntary groups for their feedback. The Council and providers will be consulting with service users and staff.
The Homeless Pathway refers to the help the Council and its partners provide for vulnerable single adults and childless couples who need to be housed. There are three levels of housing with support and services are designed to help people to develop the skills they need for independent living.
Supported housing services for single homeless adults are currently delivered by six accommodation-based support providers. These services, together with St Mungo's Street Outreach Team, floating support services and the Council's Housing Needs Team, provide a valuable network that supports people to find places to live.
The Council has recently undertaken a review of homelessness provision and how it is delivered across Reading. This has involved working closely with key partners to identify ways in which the services can be delivered more efficiently, and are better tailored to meeting Reading's needs. As a result, not only will there be extra beds, but improved efficiencies in the way accommodation is provided will generate savings worth £215,000.
None of these proposed changes will result in the closure of any services providing accommodation for homeless people.
The final decision on how Reading's Homeless Pathway service will run in the future will be taken by the Council's Cabinet in late November, taking account of feedback from this consultation process.
Rachel Eden, Lead Councillor for Housing and Neighbourhoods, said: 'This review has involved taking a long, hard look at opportunities to get the very best outcomes, particularly for those people with more complex support needs. We are pleased by how well our partners have worked with us in developing these proposals.
"With increases in homelessness predicted nationally, here in Reading we are doing all we can to support residents who find themselves homeless."