Streetwork charity gets new £1m deal despite failings

Tucking into the soup course at a Christmas dinner for homeless people hosted by Streetwork. Picture: Julie Bull
Tucking into the soup course at a Christmas dinner for homeless people hosted by Streetwork. Picture: Julie Bull
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A CHARITY was handed a new £1 million contract to look after the homeless despite failings which led to £225,000 of council cash being written off.

Streetwork UK spent less than half the number of hours it was supposed to helping people with complex needs including alcohol or drug addiction and mental health issues, who are either homeless or at risk of homelessness.

The money would normally have been reclaimed by the council – but the finance committee, meeting in a private session, agreed to write it off.

But two months earlier, Streetwork was handed a renewed £1.3m contract by councillors who had not been informed that its performance had fallen short.

Now Lothian MSP and Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale has raised concerns and voiced fears about the effect on some of the city’s vulnerable people.

Streetwork first took over the contract two years ago, after the previous provider, Gowrie Care, gave it up, saying it was unable to deliver it. Gowrie had to pay £120,000 back to the council.

The council said it had not agreed to the full write-off requested by Streetwork, but had accepted that some costs associated with the transfer from Gowrie should be covered by the council.

The write-off was agreed behind closed doors by the finance committee on August 27. But Streetwork had already been an awarded the contract for an 18-month pilot providing a similar service at a meeting of the committee on June 4.

The Care Inspectorate upheld a complaint against Streetwork in May 2014 over its under-provision of agreed support hours to clients and ruled that it must ensure it had enough staff on duty at all times.

Ms Dugdale raised concerns about Streetwork’s under-provision with the council, highlighting figures showing the charity should have delivered 27,120 hours over their contract period, but under-delivered by 17,793.

She said: “I have serious concerns over the level of under delivery, why Edinburgh City Council continued a contract through commissioning a pilot when the service was found to already be underperforming and also the cost this has incurred to the city council over the term of the contract.

“At the end of this process there are some very vulnerable people who aren’t getting the support that they desperately need and deserve.”

A council spokesman said: “Streetwork is one of the many charities that provide invaluable support to homeless people across the city, working closely with the council to provide advice, accommodation and other assistance.

“In 2013, one of these charities withdrew from providing services and Streetwork stepped in at very short notice to fill the gap. This proved to be extremely challenging and, following careful scrutiny, the council agreed to meet some of the costs associated with the transfer. Recent collaboration between the council, Streetwork and other charities has delivered significant savings while maintaining services.”

A Streetwork spokesman said: “We worked with the city council to ensure a key service for vulnerable people would not be lost. It had run into major difficulties under a previous provider.

“Agreement was reached to transfer the service to Streetwork. We have continued to provide it as well as working alongside the council to resolve previous issues on how it was run.”