Blackburn with Darwen Council’s response to the recent ONS homelessness data

Published Tuesday 26 February 2019 at 11:30

Sayyed Osman, Blackburn with Darwen Council’s Director of Adults and Prevention, said:

The ONS has used a wider definition of homelessness to include people living in temporary accommodation such as communal establishments or hostel accommodation.

In terms of street homeless deaths, we sadly had two confirmed deaths in the two years between 2017-19, so according to the ONS data approximately 90% were living in a hostel or communal accommodation at the time.

We know that one death, is one too many and we are working as part of a multi-agency approach to tackle the issues that cause a person to become homeless, or not living at a stable address in the first place.

The issues here are complex and made worse by the fact we have a disproportionate amount of hostels which people from out of our borough are coming to use which in turn puts further pressure on limited resource and services.

These are major issues affecting towns and cities across the country and there are no quick or easy solutions and this is certainly not something that the Council can deal with in isolation

We are doing what we can with partners and continue to provide help and support whilst lobbying Government for legislative changes around hostels and communal accommodation.

In Blackburn we know that there are too many people with no connection to the town, living in hostels and getting a range of support.  Tackling that is a priority as we need to make sure our residents come first given the tough financial constraints we are working with.

The Street Reach project we commission in Blackburn sees outreach teams work directly to help get people begging off the streets and into support.

We are continuing to do what we can with our limited resources and working in partnership to find radical, longer term approaches. We are currently piloting the Homelessness Trailblazer to work with young people at risk of homelessness to prevent them being without a secure and safe home.

It isn’t just housing that is needed; we need Government to understand and listen to calls for urgent and additional support for vulnerable people.

The complexity of issues we are seeing at our front door are worse than we have seen since the 1980’s because of a multitude of complex issues.

The number of hostels are a particular issue (we have over 500 hostel places alone in Blackburn). They attract people to come to the borough for accommodation from out of town. We need more powers to drive-up standards.

We have in the past run a rent bond scheme that helps guarantee the deposit for private landlords to take people who have no immediate means of paying. Unfortunately the funding for this approach is no longer available.

The challenge we now have is that year on year cuts, an increase in mental health cases and chaotic lifestyles affected by substance and alcohol abuse are contributing to an unsustainable situation.

Recently we called an urgent multi-agency partnership session to agree a dynamic partnership approach that will aim to get the root of the problems and work back from there.

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