Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Looking back not in anger but totally shocked

As you may have seen below I was perusing Inside Housing today and came across an article from July 2004. Whilst I know this was sometime ago I'd never seen the article until today and to be honest it made my blood boil and gave me an insight as to why Parliament never seems to address the homelessness problem properly.

The article reports that Paul Flynn the Labour MP for Newport West, had attacked homeless charities stating they are inventing problems to "prop" up their empires and went on to say "On his web site Mr Flynn attacks homelessness charities for ‘inventing crises and defending their empires', branding them ‘solutions in search of problems'". I read the article and thought maybe I should have a look at Mr Flynns website. Surely a MP wouldn't be making such outlandish statements, obviously he would have taken a peek at the legislation that governs homelessness, maybe asked the DCLG to supply him some background detail and data.

Well what I found on his website was truly appalling. It was like the pub bore had been put down his pint of Stella Artois and his Daily Mail and had learned how to type. Mr Flynn made a point of addressing what he alleges are myths put forward by homeless charities. I thought I'd put some of My Flynns myths and his version of the truth below, plus a comment of my own.

MYTH: People sleep rough because they have no housing.
FACT: People sleep rough because of alcohol or drug addiction, mental ill-health or the effects of institutionalisation in the armed services, prisons or care homes.

Does Mr Flynn merely think that these people have misplaced their accommodation or thought they fancied a night under the stars? And of course someone who is homeless and suffered any of the above problems may be in priority need under the homelessness legislation.

MYTH: Anyone living in an overcrowded, imperfect housing without a fitted kitchen or patio is homeless.
FACT: Homeless people are people without homes.

Now I have worked in housing for many many years, I have never had anyone apply as homeless because they did not have a fitted kitchen or a patio. Maybe Mr Flynn is happy for people to live in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions. I'm starting to think that maybe he was behind Gordon Browns announcement the other week to house 16 and 17-year-old single parents in state-run shared houses rather than council flats

Well I was going to finish here and say sorry about going on about such a old news item. But having decided to edit a bit I went off Google Paul Flynn+ Homelessness. I thought maybe I'd find an explanation or even an apology for the item on his website. Surely he must have been told the errors of his or realised himself. I would love to you inform you that he has, but alas he hasn't! The
BBC website has a story from January 2008.
Apparently Mr Flynn again graced his website stating that he had been invited to a "sob-in" by Shelter Cymru and that they ran "a fatwa against good news". Shelter Cymru even responded to Mr Flynns allegation on their own website.
Mr Flynns views on homelessness baffled me the more I looked into them, but the only explanation I could find was contained in the last line of the BBC article above.

Sometimes one plus one doesn't make two!

I came across an interesting item in Inside Housing today.

It appears that Grant Shapps, the Conservative shadow housing minister has stated that the way rough sleepers counts are done by local authorities is to be overhauled. As I have taken part in a number of rough sleeper counts I have always found it ridiculous that we have had to discount people who to the average person in the street would consider a "rough sleeper". On the previous counts I have been on I have been told not to count a number of people. An example of a disregarded person would be someone sitting on a bench at 1am, wearing a number of coats and all his worldly belongings next to him as he is not laying down and asleep. I have always been of the opinion that the counts that I have taken part were merely there to provide the government with the answers they wanted. It also helps that the counts took place in months when cold weather could be expected, thus driving some rough sleepers into night shelters.

I came across this report entitled "Roughly Sleeping" by Mr Shapps dated November 2007. The comparison between the governments figures and the figures supplied by The Simon Community, a charity working with London's street homeless is quite jaw dropping

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Yet another item on gatekeeping

I'm sorry to the millions of readers (well all three of you who follow this blog), but its another gatekeeping story thats caught my eye.

This is an article from the Coventry Telegraph regarding the amount of homelessness applicants that have a duty accepted to them under Part VII. According to the article it identifies how Coventry Council is failing its statutory duty to accommodate under Sec 188 whilst it investigates homelessness applications and is blatantly gatekeeping.

I quote from the article "Mr Fowler (chief executive of Coventry Cyrenians) said he knew of instances were single people identified as vulnerable had been referred to the council for an emergency bed overnight, only to be given an appointment a week later, then face testing and form-filling."

The article paints a bleak picture of the whole homelessness service in Coventry.

I am concerned that in the article it states:

"The council has a legal responsibility to house people made “unintentionally homeless and in priority need”.

But it says it can take up to 33 days to assess whether the legal duty applies in each case."
It would appear to my jaded eye that what the council is really saying is that we won't accommodate during the 33 days, which of course is totally illegal!

I wonder if there are any readers in the Coventry area that would like to comment on their experience of the homelessness service there?