Town hall bosses in Blackpool have scrapped a controversial policy which makes the council the single point of access to the Streetlife homeless charity’s services.
Yesterday, Streetlife’s chief officer Jane Hugo spoke out in The Gazette, saying the single point of access policy, which has been in place since April, and an insistence that young people using the shelter must have a three year local connection with Blackpool, could end up closing the charity down.
Blackpool Council bosses today said the u-turn on the single point of access was taken last week, after its chief housing boss had spoken to The Gazette on the issue.
But Mrs Hugo today said the first she had heard of the decision was when contacted by The Gazette.
Coun Gillian Campbell cabinet member for housing, said: “Last Wednesday, following discussions with providers and service users about of the single point of access issue, I instructed officers to reverse the policy as I felt it was not working as effectively as it might be doing.
“This was a direct response to the concerns Streetlife and others across the sector had and I feel will help organisations and most importantly homeless people more effectively.
“This change will come into effect from as soon as possible. We are committed to our local connection policy, however, which we believe people will support and will stop Blackpool being used as a dumping ground for other councils’ problems.
“When the single point of access is removed we will be monitoring them closely to ensure that providers follow it.”
Streetlife feared it would lose vital funding if referrals suffered. Mrs Hugo said: “This is the first I have heard of the policy change and I’m delighted.
“The Single Point of Access policy made young people jump through hoops yet did not permit them to stay at our shelter while they did so.
“Now we can give them shelter while all that is happening - and still comply with everything and retain our funding. It sits more easily with the council’s values of compassion and support for the most vulnerable.
“Streetlife needs to fight for what is best for young people and what has been achieved - with The Gazette’s help - is just that.”
Lee Dribben, chief executive of the Ashley Foundation, a registered homeless charity which provides accommodation and support to older single homeless people in Blackpool, said: “We agree that Blackpool has become a dumping ground for other councils and steps must be taken to control Blackpool Council expenditure. However, the weakest in our society should not suffer at the whim of local politicians.
“Over 300 homeless people go through our doors every year and we have a very high success rate in supporting and moving them on into independent accommodation. The Blackpool homeless sector is proud of its success in recent years. Councillors forget that not so many years ago Blackpool had a serious problem with rough sleeping. That problem has gone due to good partnership working between ourselves, other agencies, and the council,
“It is sad to see that being destroyed by political dogma.
“We have complained many times that we consider their interview procedure flawed, and have challenged them with regard to their referrals. We too have suffered a reduction in referrals.
“We used to be able to take people in quicker, move them on faster, and if they failed they could come back to us - but the new policy undermined the support we could give. We welcome the council’s change of heart if it means that clients benefit from it - but we still fear the council’s local connection policy is setting people up to fail and turning the clock back.”