Over the past few years, Manchester City Council’s Homelessness service has responded to exponentially growing need and, more recently, the challenges of the pandemic.
In recognising the need to focus on addressing these challenges, the council is establishing five key projects which combined, will help prevent homelessness in the city and improve temporary accommodation for people who experience it.
Ending the use of B&Bs for families with children
At any one time there are between 30 and 100 families with children in B&B accommodation. Although typical stays are short, it is recognised that such accommodation is far from ideal for families
While considerable work has been done to improve conditions in B&B accommodation, the Council is getting more radical with a view to ending the use of this type of accommodation altogether except in exceptional circumstances.
This will require a transformation of policies and procedures to enable people to be placed straight into temporary accommodation.
Redesigning private rented sector incentive schemes
Looking again at financial incentives for landlords to provide properties for those at risk of homelessness to ensure the right quality and level of supply. The intention is that wherever possible these properties will be used to prevent homelessness rather than as a ‘relief’ offer for those already experiencing it.
The redesigned scheme will also aim to understand and address the anxieties of potential tenants which might prevent them from taking up a private rented sector option, for example by incentivising landlords to rule out no fault evictions.
The Council is working with Lambeth Council, which has a similar housing market, and the Centre for Homelessness Impact on pilot schemes to see what works best.
Reviewing temporary accommodation
Temporary accommodation is a significant annual cost. The net cost to the council last year was £13m but work currently being carried out by an independent expert will examine how the council can secure better quality and value for money to improve people’s experience of living in temporary accommodation.
The review will also encompass the city’s ambition to become zero carbon by 2038 to help combat climate change and retrofitting properties to make them low carbon and ultimately zero carbon.
Rethinking Woodward Court/Women’s Direct Access
Our two largest temporary accommodation schemes house some of those with the most complex needs. Best practice suggests that the most vulnerable people do best in smaller settings.
This project will explore better alternatives – either within our current temporary accommodation assets or by acquiring new suitable properties – where wrapround support will continue to be provided.
Redesigning the homelessness service
Underpinning these changes will be the transformation of the Council’s Homelessness Service. The service has many strengths including a caring and committed team and strong, established working relationships with a wide range of partner organisations which are also working to tackle homelessness in Manchester. The redesign of the service will embed prevention at its heart.
Deputy Leader of Manchester City Council Cllr Luthfur Rahman OBE said: “Working together with a range of partners, we’ve come a long way in improving our response to the challenge of homelessness since it emerged as a major issue driven by the impacts of austerity and benefit changes. People are being helped and supported to move forwards in their lives.
“But the next phase of the journey is underway – one that we are determined will shift the balance from response to prevention, see fewer people in temporary accommodation and deliver better results for those that do end up there.
“For example, we’re determined to make the use of B&Bs as temporary accommodation for families with children who find themselves homeless something which is only used in exceptional circumstances, and even then for as short a time as possible.
“Some of this involves significant structural change which will be neither quick nor easy, although there will be some quicker wins along the way. Our direction of travel is clear and we’re pressing on.”
Shelter Greater Manchester’s Hub Community Services Manager John Ryan said: We see every day through our advice and support services the challenges that people face when they are threatened with or become homeless. We recognise the commitment that Manchester City Council has made in its fight against homelessness.
"This next phase is a real opportunity to work together to ensure that any experience of homelessness is something that is not only rare and brief but never to be repeated.
"Home is everything and it’s important that we explore how we can improve the homelessness system for future generations of Mancunians."