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TAMESIDE: Council to take back contract to help homeless families

TAMESIDE: Council to take back contract to help homeless families

The Tameside One council and college building in Ashton. Photo: LDRS.

Council chiefs have agreed to take the services that provide homes and temporary accommodation to homeless families back ‘in house’.

Tameside’s executive cabinet voted in favour of plans to break a contract with Jigsaw Homes awarded in 2017 to deliver their housing options service.

Bosses say the change will see better and more ‘holistic’ engagement with homeless families building on the work that has been done by the town hall’s rough sleeper team.

Last year the team recorded a ‘zero’ during a rough sleeper count, and has helped more than 200 people into permanent tenancies.

However as of August this year there were 179 households accommodated in temporary accommodation, including 78 families in B&Bs – at a cost of £219k.

By bringing the housing options service in house the authority aims to offer a ‘one-stop shop approach, going way beyond an immediate housing need’.

“The aim of the redesigned service will be to embrace each individual and family who present as homeless and assist them to address all the issues that have contributed to their homelessness,” officers say.

Chiefs say this will also save money in the long term as there will be less reliance on ‘costly provision’ and ‘more efficient’ ways of working can be found.

Chief executive Steven Pleasant described the proposal as a ‘major step foward’.

Emma Varnam, assistant director of operations and neighbourhoods told councillors: “Both the Covid experience and our rough sleeper initiative has shown us that there are opportunities for us to provide a holistic person-centred approach to our housing need for our residents.

“There are opportunities for us to prevent and stay some of the worst implications of vulnerability within our borough and we would be able to provide a service that looks at the up and coming need of our most vulnerable residents.”

Council leader Brenda Warrington said she ‘would definitely’ support the proposal.

“I would thank Jigsaw for the work they’ve done previously but I do think it’s time, with all of the other work that is done within council, that this service was brought back so it can form a whole part of work that we do,” she added.

Physical improvements will also be carried out at the office space in Ashton-under-Lyne where the service is delivered, including changing the way homeless families are asked to wait for ‘extended periods of time’ before being seen by an officer.

“Incidents of aggression or anti-social behaviour in the waiting room are regular occurrences, which causes distress and increased anxiety for other people presenting in the building and pose a risk for staff,” the cabinet report states.

“A new approach is required to provide advice safely in a positive and constructive atmosphere.

“The current model compromises confidentiality by requiring service users to discuss sensitive information in an open reception area and through security screens.

“Instead, the service should enable people to make contact from their chosen location and discuss sensitive information in private.

“There is no requirement under the current contract for Jigsaw to innovate or improve services.

“In-house provision would allow further innovation and better outcomes for homeless people with a broad range of needs.”

Executive members agreed to serve a six months’ notice of termination on Jigsaw Homes on the current contract.

Words: Charlotte Green, Local Democracy Reporter


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