West Berkshire Council

Council responds to Healthwatch West Berkshire Homelessness Report

The Council has welcomed the publication of Healthwatch West Berkshire's Homelessness and Rough Sleeper Report.

2018 - Rough Sleeper's Tent

Issued on: 28 February

The council appreciates the initiative  Healthwatch West Berkshire (HWWB) has taken in writing this report and its work to highlight the experience of some rough sleepers in the community.

It has, however, expressed concerns that the report does not accurately reflect the full picture of the homelessness situation or service provision in West Berkshire. This is particularly the case as HWWB did not seek input from service partners, including the council, or current service users when drafting it.

West Berkshire Council shares the HWWB view that a 'one size fits all' approach would not be effective or helpful to the vulnerable people that it has a duty of care to protect.‎ As such, it works with over 20 partnership groups to tackle multiple issues including rough sleeping. 

 Measures in place include:

  • The Homelessness Forum, a multi-agency forum that oversees the implementation of the Homelessness Strategy and which takes strategic action to prevent and reduce homelessness in West Berkshire.
  • The Make Every Adult Matter (MEAM) project group which is led by the council in partnership with Thames Valley Police.  This is an innovative multi-agency group working to identify the reasons for people sleeping rough. West Berkshire was successful in being selected as one of only 25 local areas across England to develop co-ordinated, effective support for people experiencing multiple needs. The selected local authorities, statutory agencies and the voluntary sector will use the MEAM framework to help shape their work and receive support and advice from MEAM coalition staff based across the country. This approach has already seen great success nationally and it is hoped that this will be replicated in West Berkshire. 
  • The council also funds an outreach worker based at the Two Saints hostel in Newbury who engages with the rough sleepers with the aim of helping them off the streets. 
  • A comprehensive Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP) policy which means that people sleeping on the streets can stay at Two Saints at times of cold weather, rain, wind or extreme heat.  The council regularly activates the SWEP on a discretionary basis, often exceeding the requirements placed on local authorities. 

The council's Housing Service also participates in the National Practitioner Support Service's Gold Standard programme, which involves a review of their service provision and their commitment to continuous improvement.  West Berkshire was only the 12th local authority nationally to achieve the Silver Standard and is well on the way to achieving Gold.

Councillor Hilary Cole, West Berkshire's Executive Member for Homelessness said:

"It is disappointing that HWWB's report does not reflect the excellent work being done by our Housing Team and our commissioned service providers to alleviate homelessness and rough sleeping; such as the MEAM project and our 'No Second Night Out' policy, among others.

"The most important activity we undertake is to try to prevent homelessness in the first place, which includes helping people to access the private rented sector as well as social housing. We recognise issues exist between mental health services and substance misuse services and are currently looking into recruitment of a Dual Diagnosis Worker. Access to healthcare generally can be an issue for some rough sleepers and we would support a localised service to address this. 

"We are committed to preparing for the Homelessness Reduction Act and are currently awaiting final approval of additional staffing and budget to enable us to provide more comprehensive support."