Public outcry forces city to rethink homeless strategy

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COUNCIL chiefs are being forced to rethink plans to save £1.3 million by shaking up their homelessness strategy amid widespread opposition.

The plans included bringing much of the support work currently carried out by the voluntary sector in-house and setting new time limits on the help provided.

However, a consultation found 79 per cent of people opposed taking services in-house and 61 per cent against imposing a maximum of three months in temporary accommodation.

Some of those who responded claimed the strategy was “only about saving money” and focused on providing support “quickly” rather than “effectively”.

A report to yesterday’s meeting of the health and social care committee said some parts of the plan would now be amended to reflect feedback, including “clarification” that the length of time spent in temporary accommodation needed to take into account individual needs. But opposition councillors were not satisfied and forced the strategy to be referred to next week’s full council meeting.

Labour health and social care spokeswoman Maureen Child said: “The main concern is services for people with complex and multiple needs and how well these clients are going to be served in the future. There is a lack of confidence that what is being proposed will meet their needs.”

She said some of those in need of support had a history of chaotic lifestyles stretching back up to 30 years. “That’s not going to be turned around in three months,” she said.

“We were concerned the voices of those service users and those with most experience of working with them have not been heard. We did not feel it was good enough to say there will be further consultation.”

The document is due for final approval by the council’s policy and strategy committee on September 6 – just 11 working days from now, which Cllr Child said made proper consultation before that “totally impractical”.

Health and social care convener Paul Edie insisted there had been “substantial movement” on the strategy as a result of consultation.

He accused the other parties of “opposition for opposition’s sake” and claimed all their concerns had been dealt with.

He said: “I’m content the consultation has been thorough and robust and we have moved to take on board the concerns that have been raised.

“What we are now down to is fine tuning.”