Council says homeless service will improve

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WIGAN must continue improving its strategies to tackle the growing problem of homelessness, a council report has said.

Although numbers of people without a roof over their heads in the borough are currently stable and have reduced significantly over the past few years, Wigan Council wants to carry on making its intervention and prevention services even better.

A report submitted to a council scrutiny committee next week will recommend implementing a new five-part strategy to tackle homelessness as well as committing Wigan to trying to achieve the newly-announced gold standard for dealing with the issue.

The town hall is particularly concerned about increasing number of people visiting rough sleeping services, and worries the next few years will see more people in Britain with nowhere to live due to welfare reforms and benefits’ changes.

Coun Chris Ready, portfolio holder for housing, said: “I am concerned about the impact homelessness can have on many areas of life, putting extra demands on health services, undermining educational achievement and acting as a barrier to those seeking and keeping employment.

“There is growing evidence welfare reform is putting additional pressure on households to find and sustain suitable affordable accommodation and this will generate an increase in demand for housing advice, support and homelessness services.

“This strategy will continue with our successful and cost-effective prevention approach.”

The new five-part plan will focus on ensuring those at most risk of ending up on the street can access services, strengthen partnerships to help people move into their own accommodation, end rough sleeping, prevent families ending up in B&Bs temporarily and continuously improve homelessness services.

The council’s previous strategy, introduced in 2008, saw dramatic falls in the numbers of rough sleepers and people ending up homeless, including signing up to the No Second Night Out scheme which works to find accommodation for those just arriving on the streets.

The council also created 15 beds for women at risk of domestic violence, established a partnership with solicitors Stephenson’s to tackle illegal evictions and built more than 150 new council homes, with a commitment to further social accommodation being provided in the future.

The number of people being accepted as statutory homeless has plummeted from 715 in 2007/08 to 219 in 2012/13, while preventions by the local authority have soared from 376 in 2008/09 to 1,404 in 2012/13.

The biggest concern for the local authority is the social housing register, with more than 3,000 people waiting for one-bed homes.