Claims council ignored homeless issue for years, as new strategy revealed
PUBLISHED: 18:14 06 February 2020 | UPDATED: 18:14 06 February 2020
Homelessness has been an on-going issue not tackled by a council, a member has claimed as he welcomed a new strategy to combat rough sleeping.
Breckland Council discussed its Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Strategy at its Overview and Scrutiny meeting on Thursday, February 6.
Speaking at the meeting, councillor for Thetford Burrell, Terry Jermy, praised the plan but highlighted the issue had been on-going for a number of years.
He said: "I think for two years the council has been in a state of denial about the seriousness of the housing problem.
"I was repeatedly raising points about people presenting as homeless at my work. It is a major issue in this district and it has been recognised in the report.
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"The findings are concerning but we are now aware of them and we can move forward to look at them."
A review, completed by the East of England Local Government Association, found that rough sleeping in the area, which includes Attleborough, Dereham, Swaffham, Watton and Thetford, has tripled in the last two years, from five in 2018, to 16 in 2019.
It also found that out of 500 residents that contacted the council, 465 were entitled to support as they were either at risk of becoming homeless or were already homeless.
Four areas have been highlighted for improvement over the next five years; making information more accessible with home visits and a new IT system, further multi-agency work, reduce dependency on bed and breakfasts by working with housing associations and landlords while prioritising one and two bedroom homes in new developments, and forming new partnerships in specialist areas such as mental health and domestic abuse.
Mr Jermy added: "The statistic that has stood out is that half of those at risk have children. If they are placed in a hotel or bed and breakfast there could be no means of access to your child's school, their education would be massively affected, and if they work, moving to another area they could lose there job."
The council forwarded the strategy to Breckland Cabinet which will decide if it should be implemented at a later date.