Vulnerable families and single people at risk of homelessness will soon gain greater support and advice in the community as part of a new multi-agency housing options service.
Westminster City Council has selected Places for People, in partnership with Shelter and The Passage, as its preferred supplier to deliver its redesigned service.
The new five-year contract will be focused on prevention and early intervention and will go some way to meeting the requirements of the Homelessness Reduction Act, due to be implemented next year.
The different approach to delivering the council's statutory service will be a more mobile and community focused service, spread across Westminster, that is tailored to meet the needs of people at points in their lives when homelessness is a real risk.
Early this year, Westminster City Council was successfully awarded over £900,000 from the government's Homelessness Prevention Trailblazer fund. The new housing options service will work in tandem with other partnership initiatives that are planned.
Councillor Rachael Robathan, Cabinet Member for Housing, said
"The council has one of the largest homelessness and housing advice services in London. Demand for the service is growing and because of this, and in anticipation of the Homelessness Reduction Act, we took a fresh and innovative approach to considering how our housing options service should be run.
"We want to deliver a service that is better tailored to dealing with residents' problems in full first time round and where possible, stops more complex issues from developing.
"This is a significant contract for us and I am pleased that Places for People, one of the UK's leading housing support providers, has brought together the expertise of leading charities to meet this challenge."
The new service is being awarded in four lots. These are:
Places for People will bring its expertise in managing a property service to increase the supply of affordable housing options and availability of accommodation. Partners, Shelter and The Passage (a homeless charity based in London Victoria), will deliver the front-line service, along with Residential Management Group (RMG), a subsidiary of Places for People. RMG has delivered Westminster City Council's housing options service for the last 10 years under the previous contract.
Places for People's Group Chief Executive, David Cowans, said
"We are delighted to have been selected as the preferred supplier for this innovative housing options contract. By bringing together service delivery expertise and best practice from the charity and private sector, will deliver an enhanced service to Westminster residents. We look forward to delivering our commitments to the council as well as to the local community."
Alison Mohammed, director of services at Shelter, said
"At the heart of everything we do is the belief that everyone should have access to a safe, secure and affordable home. That's why we're working with other partners on a contract funded by Westminster City Council to provide this innovative new service, which aims to prevent hundreds of families in the area from spiralling into homelessness.
"Every day at Shelter our frontline advisers see the devastating impact of homelessness, and how it tears apart families and communities. We hope that working together with local partners to provide independent advice and support when people need it the most, will mean fewer people in Westminster have to go through the trauma of losing the roof over their heads."
Mick Clarke, Chief Executive at The Passage, said
"Since 1980, The Passage has been there as a safety net for those who have ended up on the streets, and we are proud of our track record in helping over 100,000 people off those streets since we were established. However, prevention is always better than cure, and prevention work has been one of our key strategic objectives for many years now. Therefore as an organisation that played a key role in the creation of the Homelessness Reduction Bill, we are really proud to be part of this partnership, and look forward to making a real difference in preventing people ending up street homeless."
The contract is valued at just under £30million and will run for five years. It is expected to save the council approximately £3million a year (equivalent to a 10 per cent saving over current costs) through greater delivery of prevention and advice.
The greater focus on prevention, advice and early intervention will include mediation with landlords and employers, reconnection services, employment advice and support, welfare advice and entitlement.
Service mobilisation has begun and the contract will start on 1 October this year. The new service will be phased in over a period of time.