Homeless people face fines of up to £1,000 for sleeping rough in public doorways, under a new asbo-style rule introduced by a London Council.
Homelessness charities have reacted angrily to Hackney Council’s ‘Public Space Protection Order’, which they say “criminalises homelessness”.
The new order bans homeless people from sleeping in public areas and doorways and can be legally enforced through a £100 on the spot fine.
This fine could quickly escalate to as much as £1,000, due to additional court costs. It remains unclear on how the Council will expect destitute homeless people to pay up.
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Hundreds of North East homeless teenagers are being left to fend for themselves, research shows.
A report, launched by The Children’s Society today, shows that across the region an estimated 300 teenagers aged 16 and 17 ask their local authority for emergency help with housing each year – but almost half are turned away and left to fend for themselves without even having their needs assessed.
The research based on Freedom of Information requests – sent to 353 local councils across England – also reveals that homeless 16-17-year-olds are rarely given the same support as children in care, such as access to an advocate or financial support.
Matthew Reed, chief executive of The Children’s Society, said:
“It is a disgrace that hundreds of vulnerable teenagers, who may have escaped physical or sexual abuse at home, have gone to their council to get help in finding a safe home, only to be turned away.
“These teenagers are being hung out to dry. Few have the money or resources to find new accommodation and their options are limited. At best they might rely on the goodwill of friends or family, at worst they may be forced to return to an unsafe home or to live on the streets. They are facing huge dangers from predators who seek to abuse or exploit them. Councils need to do much more to protect these vulnerable teenagers. Every teenager deserves a safe place to live.”
Research finds that homeless teenagers may be sent back to homes where there is violence or left rootless with no permanent home, facing threats of sexual abuse or being driven into crime.
Councils across England place hundreds of teenagers in Bed and Breakfasts (B&Bs) each year, going against government guidance which regards this type of accommodation as unsuitable.
It has been documented that B&Bs and hostels used to accommodate homeless people are targeted by sexual predators and drug dealers.
Even where teenagers are housed in supported accommodation, the reality is that it may not be suitable as it is not inspected and is unregulated.
The Children’s Society is calling for councils to join up their services and make sure that all teenagers who seek help for homelessness are assessed and given adequate support. They are also calling for B&B accommodation to be banned and hostels and supported accommodation to be regulated.
The charity is lobbying the government to make sure councils identify vulnerable 16 and 17-year-olds seeking help for homelessness, and provide them with flexible support and the same protection as care leavers.
Across England, an estimated 12,000 homeless 16 and 17-year-olds ask councils for help with housing each year – but more than 5,000 are turned away.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 20 Mar 2015
Conservative business minister Nick Boles told charity volunteers that some benefits sanctions were ‘inhuman’ and that the system needed to be changed. However, when his comments were published in a local newspaper he quickly did a u-turn, claiming that he is a ‘strong supporter’ of sanctions.
The Grantham Journal reported the comments made by Boles during a visit to a breakfast being provided to homeless people at a church in the town.
Volunteers told Boles about a claimant who was sanctioned for missing an appointment whilst staying with his newborn baby, who was in intensive care.
Boles responded that:
“The sanctions are a worry, and do need to be looked at.
“I do understand why there needs to be a disciplined system and there needs to be a process they go through, but I do think there are too many of these cases where it does seem inhumanly inflexible.”
Boles added that nothing could be done in the run up to the election but that:
“The beginning of a parliamentary term, when people are looking at things afresh, is the best time to make a change.”
However, Boles backtracked very rapidly yesterday after his comments were reported in the national press.
He told the Guardian that:
“Benefit sanctions are an essential part of our reforms to end the something-for-nothing culture and they have helped record numbers of people back into work since 2010. I am a strong supporter of them in both principle and practice – those who can work should work.
“Of course, we need to make sure that the decision to impose sanctions is properly applied and employment advisers work hard to make sure special circumstances are taken into account.”
Source – Benefits & Work, 04 Mar 2015
Two young boys moved by the sight of people sleeping rough have started a campaign to help the homeless.
Jack and Tom Hobbs were horrified to see people on the streets of Newcastle during a city visit from their home in Stanley, County Durham, at Christmas.
Despite their tender years, they have pledged to do what they can to help and have started to collect warm clothes, sleeping bags and blankets to donate to the needy.
Jack, nine, and Tom, five, started collecting things at St Mary’s Junior School, where they are both pupils.
Proud father Gavin Hobbs, of Iveston Terrace, Shield Row, said:
“We were out for dinner in Newcastle just after Christmas and my two boys saw homeless people on the streets for the first time and were both extremely upset and bothered about them.
“They decided they wanted to collect hats, coats, scarves, gloves, blankets and sleeping bags and start giving them to the homeless people to keep them warm.
“Jack and Tom are very passionate about this and have collected quite a bit already. We have got so much it is unbelievable.”
Car loads of gear will be taken to The Tommy Armstrong Centre in Stanley and The People’s Kitchen in Newcastle on Saturday.
It is being stored at St Joseph’s Church in Stanley. Anyone who wants to help can call Mr Hobbs on 07432-693-558 or take it straight to the church.
Source – Northern Echo, 04 Feb 2015
Kind-hearted Co-op staff have donated hundreds of items of clothing to help the homeless this winter.
A total of 300 bags of clothing are set to help 400 homeless people across the North East.
Customers and Co-op staff have collected a lorry full of toiletries and winter woollies, which included 343 pairs of trousers, 246 jumpers, 194 fleeces, 131 coats, 129 hats, 98 scarfs and 64 pairs of gloves, before delivering the goodies to Crisis Skylight’s HQ in City Road, Newcastle.
Crisis Skylight Newcastle works closely with local hostels and shelters to support single people experiencing homelessness.
The charity will distribute the clothing and toiletries to up to 400 people currently sleeping on the streets and in hostels on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, who will also enjoy a hot festive meal at its Newcastle centre.
Nicola Wylde, from The Co-operative’s Membership team, who co-ordinated The Co-operative’s appeal, said:
“As a community retailer, it is vital we support local good causes and we are pleased to have worked with Crisis Skylight Newcastle to help provide much needed warm winter clothing for the homeless in the area in time for Christmas.
“We’d like to thank our customers and colleagues for their support and generosity, which has been overwhelming and exceeded all our expectations.
“Their unwanted winter woollies will make a massive difference to those in need, and will also help Crisis provide a lifeline to its guests this Christmas, and help them take their first steps out of homelessness.”
Ian Richards, head of Crisis at Christmas, added:
“Without the generous support of donors, volunteers and partners, Crisis at Christmas would not be possible. We would like to thank The Co-operative for their fantastic support which will help us to provide a lifeline for our guests this Christmas, and help them take their first steps out of homelessness.”
Any items left over after the Christmas Day and Boxing Day events will be donated to Storehouse, a local charitable organisation supporting people in poverty.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 24 Dec 2014
This articlewas written by Patrick Butler, social policy editor, for The Guardian on Thursday 18th December 2014
Poverty charities and councils have warned that the government’s refusal to guarantee funding for local welfare schemes will force low income families in crisis to turn to food banks and loan sharks.
The government announced in January that it would no longer provide £180m central funding for local welfare assistance schemes operated by English local authorities after April 2015, triggering a cross-party revolt by Conservative MPs and council leaders, Labour councils and charities.
It is believed that the communities secretary, Eric Pickles, attempted to secure £70m for local welfare to announce in Thursday’s local government finance settlement, but was blocked by the chancellor, George Osborne.
The local government minister Kris Hopkins told the Commons on Thursday that there would be no additional funding for local welfare, although he encouraged councils to make further formal representations, raising faint hopes that the government may revisit the decision in February.
Local welfare provision offers emergency help for a range of vulnerable people who fall into unexpected crisis, including women fleeing domestic violence, homeless people, pregnant mothers, care leavers, pensioners and people suffering from chronic physical and mental health problems.
Some in Whitehall are understood to be concerned that cutting local welfare will provide additional fuel to critics who argue the government does not care about poverty. A cross-party report on food banks this month urged the government to protect local welfare assistance, saying food bank referrals would increase if it was not reinstated.
Hopkins said that although there would be no new funds for local welfare, ministers would outline a notional figure of £130m in the overall grant allocations to councils – a cut of £50m – although this would not be ring-fenced, meaning councils can spend it on other services.
Cllr Andy Hull, Labour-run Islington council’s executive member for finance, called the decision not to provide local welfare funding “an early Christmas present from the government for loan sharks and payday lenders.”
He added: “This safety net supports families to stay together, helps people sustain their tenancies and keeps kids out of care. It is a lifeline, not a luxury. Now, thanks to the government, it lies in shreds.”
The Local Government Association said almost three-quarters of local authorities will abandon or scale back local welfare schemes unless they receive government funding. Two county councils, Nottinghamshire and Oxfordshire, have already closed their schemes.
Alison Garnham, chief executive of Child Poverty Action Group, said:
“In the long-run tax payers will foot a higher bill if low-income families can’t stop a one-off, unforeseen expense from becoming a full-blown crisis – and the human cost will be high. For mothers leaving violent partners or youngsters moving on from homelessness or care, the schemes can make the difference between managing or not.”
Helen Middleton of the Furniture Reuse Network, whose member charities work closely with councils on helping low-income families, said the decision showed the government had “no real understanding of the levels of poverty in this country”.
Homelessness charity Centrepoint said young homeless people used local welfare schemes as a vital safety net:
“It’s completely unacceptable that young people who have fought to turn their lives around after facing homelessness are once again left to sleep on floors for lack of something as basic as a bed.
“Ministers must look carefully at responses from councils to this announcement and consider whether their proposal really reflects the level of poverty in many of our communities.”
Matthew Reed, chief executive of the Children’s Society, said:
“The government’s decision to reduce annual funding from £172m to £130m will make it harder for councils to support vulnerable families facing a crisis. The requirement that town halls fund their schemes from within existing budgets may create a postcode lottery for many families in poverty.”
Source – Welfare Weekly, 18 Dec 2014
Operation Dollar has been launched on the back of increased concerns about people begging in North Shields town centre and Front Street, Tynemouth.
Officers from the local Neighbourhood Policing Team will be carrying out high visibility patrols as well as working with other agencies such as the Changing Lives scheme which aims to help homeless people.
Members of the public are being advised to help and not to give money to beggars.
North Shields and Tynemouth Neighbourhood Inspector Geoff Cross said:
“Beggars can be intimidating to some people and put them off from going to certain areas.
“Begging itself is an offence and it is often the case that people who are begging are involved in other crime and anti-social behaviour that has detrimental effect on the community.
“We want people to be able to visit Tynemouth and North Shields without fear of being harassed by beggars.
“Most people begging need help and support or help of some kind, and organisations such as Changing Lives can help put them in touch with the correct support and ensure they get the right help.”
“By ensuring those found begging are directed to the correct support it’s hoped we can reduce the amount of begging taking place on the streets.”
> I wonder in how many cases ‘the right help‘ put them on the streets in the first place ? As we know, Iain Duncan Smith believes sanctions help people focus on getting a job… how many sanctioned people have had to take up a ‘job’ begging as a result of them ?
Source – Whitley Bay News Guardian, 11 Nov 2014
A town centre business is set to be the perfect fit for a charity appeal providing some winter warmth for homeless people this winter.
South Shields Chiropractic Clinic, in Coronation Street, has signed up to be a drop off point for a campaign urging people to donate unwanted winter clothing to vulnerable people.
The Winter Coat Amnesty is now in its fourth year, and has the support of benevolent businesses all over the North East.
Organised by long-time Crisis Christmas volunteers Andy Brown and Claire Paczko, the campaign has now garnered many thousands of unwanted winter clothing since its inception, and every year dozens of businesses and organisations from across the region act as donation stations.
“The donated clothing goes to Crisis because we want to encourage vulnerable people to use their service and other similar organisations who offer education, training and formal learning opportunities which lead to qualifications and finding work.
“We only run this campaign leading up to Christmas because we are trying to solve a problem, not sustain one.
“With the Winter Coat Amnesty, we believe we offer intervention which enables vulnerable people to survive during the winter months.”
This year the Co-operative is supporting the annual Winter Coat Amnesty by hosting drop-off points for winter clothing at 43 stores across Tyneside
A full list of stations across the North East can be found on the Winter Coat Amnesty website: wintercoatamnesty.blogspot.co.uk, on Twitter @wintercoatsNE or Facebook www.facebook.com/wintercoatamnesty
Donations can be made from Monday until December 5.
Source – Shields Gazette, 01 Nov 2014
Tears rolling down her cheeks, mum Katie Friend reveals the true cost of austerity.
In an emotional outburst she reveals the measures she resorted to just to feed her son.
Katie and husband Mal ate tinned casserole and powdered mash potato, while two-year-old Theo unwrapped presents from the charity shop on Christmas Day.
They were later forced to resort to emergency food parcels to give Theo a birthday party to disguise to him they were living on the bread line.
And today, Katie, a trained nursery nurse, tells how the family would have gone hungry if it wasn’t for the volunteers at the Gateshead Foodbank.
The 24-year-old, who now works part-time in a laundry, is telling her story to erase the stigma associated with foodbanks and to help other families in need.
Katie, whose husband has now found a full-time job, said:
“I have been brought up not to ask for help. I come from a proud family and when you’re struggling you just have to get on with it.
“My husband is very much the same but we had to swallow our pride – not just for us but for Theo. He needed food.
“I came down to the foodbank and I was actually shaking. I was terrified, I felt so embarrassed and ashamed and felt like such a bad mum.
“I thought I would come in and find homeless people queuing up. I came in and it was lovely and bright and I was greeted with a smile.
“It was the total opposite of what I thought it was going to be.”
The Friends were plunged into poverty when their benefits were sanctioned just days before Christmas last year.
Katie desperately tried to hide the fact she was struggling until organisers at St Chad’s Community Project noticed something was wrong.
And as she faced Christmas without any food she plucked up the courage to visit Gateshead Foodbank in the centre of Gateshead.
Volunteers provided her with emergency food parcels to get her through the festive period.
“We were sat having sandwiches. I was sat with my husband and my son cuddled up on the sofa watching the TV. My son opened presents from the charity shop.
“He appreciated them and we had a good day.
“When I think of what somebody else had at Christmas and what we had at Christmas I think it’s hard for somebody to believe that’s what we did.
“Everybody expects everyone can afford to have that day but not everyone can. We would have been able to afford that if we hadn’t have had that sanction.
“I’ll always remember that Christmas, the Christmas we couldn’t afford to have.
“We had tinned casserole and powdered mash potato but we could have had no food. I had a smile on my face on Christmas morning and I wouldn’t have had that if it wasn’t for the foodbank.”
The benefit sanction was lifted after Christmas and Katie and her husband began to get their lives back on track.
But in a second blow – just months later – the family had to resort to handouts when their welfare was recalculated.
And with Theo’s birthday just around the corner and food to find for a pre-planned party Katie received help from the foodbank again.
“It takes over your whole life. People say your in a dark place but you don’t see anything else going on. When I look back I was really down.
“I had the idea that the foodbank was just for homeless people and we weren’t entitled to anything. People donate the food to help people in your situation and you shouldn’t feel bad.
“It has been given for a purpose, you don’t have to feel bad.
“I’m so glad I swallowed my pride. I wasn’t a bad parent, I was a better parent for providing for my child and getting help.”
She added: “I’m just a normal person and just one of many people that got into this situation.”
The foodbank, which has been open nearly two years, is ran by volunteers from churches in Gateshead. It works with care professionals, GPs and the Citizens Advice Bureau to distribute food to those families in need in the town.
They provide three days of emergency food to people who find themselves in need.
For more information, call 0191 487 0898 or email email@example.com
Source – Newcastle Evening chronicle, 17 Oct 2014
Oxfordshire county council has for the past four years pulled out all the stops to avoid passing on a 38% cut in its grant for services for homeless people. But now the authority says it has nowhere left to turn and is reluctantly planning to phase in the reduction, including stopping all funding for dedicated support for those with substance misuse problems.
“It’s not something I like to do, but we’re not unusual in doing it,” says John Jackson, the council’s director for social and community services. “The reality is that I have to protect services for people I have a statutory responsibility for.”
According to new research published today, Oxfordshire’s decision is emblematic of the state of adult social care services across England. Findings from a survey of adult social care directors reveal that half say that fewer people are getting services; barely one in three says they are protecting the size of the personal budgets older people and disabled adults receive to pay for their care and support, and six in 10 directors are braced for more legal challenges.
The Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (Adass), which conducted the survey, has hitherto been notably measured – critics might say overly so – in its response to cuts ordered by the coalition government since 2010. But now it warns that the social care system is on the brink of becoming unsustainable. Its president, David Pearson, calls on wider society to say how far it is prepared to protect “countless vulnerable people who will fail to receive, or not be able to afford, the social care services they need and deserve”.
Recalling that earlier this year the National Audit Office (NAO) questioned whether councils were approaching the limits of their capacity to absorb pressures on social care budgets, Pearson says: “Our survey shows beyond doubt that we have reached the point where we are unable to absorb the pressures they, and our survey, have identified.”
The survey adds to the sense of financial crisis. Demands for extra cash for the NHS are mounting and this week the Local Government Association (LGA) warns that councils in England face a £5.8bn funding gap by March 2016 due to further cuts in grant – forcing 12.5% savings in 2014-15 alone – and escalating demand for services, particularly for older people.
The funding gap for adult social care on its own will be £1.9bn by March 2016, the LGA estimated. Next year, 2015, is “make or break” for social care with the introduction of the government’s Better Care Fund, expected to pool more than £5bn of existing funds from councils and the NHS to spend on integrated services that are designed to keep people out of hospital. Current government funding for social care is £14bn.
Pearson, however, says the scale of the challenge far outstrips any benefit that may come from integration. “It is not the directors’ job, but that of the country as a whole and its politicians, to debate how much, in times of the most severe adversity, vulnerable people should be protected from the consequences of that adversity by the introduction of new money into social care.”
Norfolk gives a flavour of the challenge. The county’s population is projected to rise 25% by 2033, but numbers of those aged 65-74 will increase 54% and numbers aged 75 or over will soar by 97%. Much of this growth will be in isolated rural communities in the north of the county.
Norfolk’s adult social services department already reports growth of 53% in referrals over the past five years, together with a near-tripling of demand for intensive homecare support of 10 hours a week or more, at the same time as it has been making £72m savings, which includes cutting the numbers of social work posts and paring back preventive services. Nevertheless, it says spending on frontline care has been protected.
With further cuts of £59m in Norfolk social services planned over the next three years, however, continuing to protect care is no longer realistic. Some £14m is coming out of people’s personal budgets, £6m from support for people with learning or physical disabilities and £4.5m from the contract with the council’s own residential care company.
Asked what the future holds, Sue Whitaker, Labour chair of Norfolk’s adult social services committee, says: “I have a feeling that trying to provide anything on top of what is required statutorily is going to be exceptionally difficult, if not impossible.”
This reflects the national picture painted by the Adass survey. Based on returns from directors in 144 councils with adult social care responsibilities, 95% of the total, Adass calculates that another £266m (1.9%) is being taken out of services in 2014-15, making a total 12% real-terms cut in spending since 2010 while demand for services has risen 14%. The net effect, therefore, is said to represent total savings since 2010 of 26% or £3.5bn.
Questioned about the likely impact over the next two years, 47% of directors say people who used services would get smaller personal budgets for their care and support; 48% say fewer people would be able to get services; 50% forecast greater pressure on the NHS; 55% expect care providers to face financial difficulty; and 59% anticipate receiving more legal challenges to cuts.
With most provision of care these days outsourced, 19% of directors admit not knowing if all their contractors paid the national minimum wage and only 3% are confident that all paid the higher, unofficial living wage. As many as 75% say they commission some homecare visits of just 15 minutes, although 90% of them say such visits were simply to check on an individual’s wellbeing or medication.
Richard Humphries, assistant director of policy at the King’s Fund thinktank, says the survey rings painfully true. “This is the consequence of the 2010 spending settlement that supposedly protected the NHS but left the social care system totally exposed,” he says. “It was all entirely predictable.
“What we are seeing now is a double whammy with both the NHS and social care simultaneously facing a crunch year next year. Most people cannot see how to get beyond this without extra money – not just money for more of the same, but for transformation of services. The Better Care Fund is OK, but it’s a very small step towards much bigger measures that are needed.”
Back in Oxfordshire, Jackson thinks the county council has a sustainable – if unpalatable – four-year plan for social care. His political boss, Conservative cabinet member Judith Heathcoat, has told the Oxford Mail she is “as comfortable as I can be” with the planned 38% cuts in housing-related support, which are part of a £64m savings package across the authority over four years.
Other savings will come through cheaper support for people with learning disabilities, moving them either out of residential care or perhaps from two-person flats to shared accommodation for five. Older people will also be hit: those attending health and wellbeing centres may next year be charged £20 a day.
Jackson’s fear is that growing numbers of legal challenges will be incurred over people’s statutory rights to care. “In the end we cannot not meet people’s care needs” he says. “We would want to do that morally anyway, but the law is very clear about it. We don’t need the courts to tell us that.”
This article was written by David Brindle, for The Guardian on Wednesday 2nd July 2014
Source – Welfare News Service, 02 July 2014