Councillors call for quicker response to protect Blackpool homeless

Calls have been made for a faster response to finding beds for rough sleepers in Blackpool during severe weather conditions.

Friday, 5th February 2021, 11:24 am

Currently, in normal circumstances, emergency shelter only has to be offered if three consecutive days of freezing temperatures are forecast.

But after examining the protocol, councillors say this should be reduced and other weather conditions should also be taken into account.

A scrutiny report into housing and homelessness is recommending the changes are made to the Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP).

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People sleeping in a shop doorway in Blackpool

It says members of the panel “felt that the three day forecast before the SWEP could be implemented was too long, recognising that even a single night of severe weather could cause significant harm or death to a rough sleeper.”

The report adds: “Although it was recognised by the review panel that freezing weather conditions could be dangerous to those sleeping rough, it was also raised that other weather conditions, such as heavy rainfall could be equally as hazardous.

“However these were not mentioned by the protocol. Therefore it was decided that a recommendation should be included to ask that consideration be given to expanding the scope of the SWEP to cover all severe weather events.”

Councillors also said use of the emergency measures gave the council “an opportunity to further engage with the homeless and attempt to prevent their return to rough sleeping.”

Each year all councils must carry out a rough sleeper count to get a snapshot of homelessness levels in their area.

Blackpool’s 2019 rough sleeper count, held in November, found 15 people on the streets, an increase from 12 the previous year.

But figures from the report say in 2017/18, the number of individuals found to have slept rough at least once in a year was 235.

During the Covid pandemic, the council has received additional government funding to find accommodation for homeless people as part of measures to restrict the spread of Covid 19.

The scrutiny report says in 2017/18, a total of 603 households in Blackpool were homeless, with the town having three times the national average number of homeless households per head of population.

Ten recommendations by the scrutiny report also include to develop an accreditation scheme for letting agents in order to drive up standards in the private rented sector, and to ask the government for extra funds to meet housing needs.

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