The Freedom of Information Act comes in handy to a Campaigning organisation, because we can use it to challenge and argue our point.
Hugo’s Earthquake believes that Worcester City Council has written a bad Tender Contract for the homeless in Worcester, at the expense of £500,000 (over 2 years) of which County Community Projects (Gloucester) bidded and was awarded. As we have previously revealed, the Single Person and Childless Couples Homeless Prevention Support Service Tender Document the City Council produced near the beginning of 2016 practically decimates the Homeless Outreach Service which was existent under the previous WHIT Contract.
We believe that due of the lack of a comprehensive Outreach Service or communication system, Cardon Banfield was not known to Worcester City Council Housing Team or CCP in the weeks and months leading up to his death. Maggs Day Centre admit that they did know of him, but did not pass this information on or indeed signpost Mr Banfield to other agencies which could have assisted him.
FACT: There is now no comprehensive, dedicated outreach service for rough sleepers in any district in Worcestershire.
The Tender to which CCP was awarded states in black and white:
“The Provider will ensure resources are to be targeted at those newly arrived to the streets. Entrenched Rough Sleepers are to receive a “light touch” service until ready to engage with more preventative services that will support them from the streets and into long term accommodation.”
But we see that there are many faults in this tiny section of the Tender:
- Why is this just ‘new to the street’, and not the more entrenched rough sleepers which arguably need the service more?
- What does this term “light touch” ACTUALLY mean, and can either the Council or CCP publicly define it?
- The idea that rough sleepers should be given ‘light touch’ service, “until ready to engage”? It is a fact that rough sleepers are the least trustworthy when it comes to engaging with services. The very fact the Council’s view on the rising rough sleeper problem is to give minimal help and assume they will come for help is disgusting, because these humans deserve the help and support which will ensure they have a semi-recognisable quality of life. Rough sleepers will tend to only engage with services when a strong, trusting relationship is developed with the support worker.
- “From the streets into long term accommodation” – but without a comprehensive Outreach Service, how can CCP work with other agencies to get these homeless from the streets into beds?
- In the article about #TentDeath, it was reported in the Worcester News that “if members of the general public are concerned about someone sleeping rough then they can report them via Streetlink – call 0300 500 0914 or log on to http://www.streetlink.org.uk. A support worker will attend the reported spot within 24 hours of referral.“, however there is ZERO mention of an out of hours service in the Tender – so we’re asking the following uncomfortable question to be answered immediately:
If a rough sleeper is reported in Worcestershire via Streetlink on a Friday or Saturday, when will a support worker from CCP attend?
All of these questions and statements need addressing quickly, because this is £500,000 of Worcester taxpayers money which is being spent. To try and help answer some of these ourselves, the Founder of Hugo’s Earthquake this morning (1st November 2016) submitted a Freedom of Information Request into Worcester City Council’s FOI department. This FOI is asking for the very agreement that CCP wrote and won against the Tender to deliver the new service. Hugo Sugg explains why this request has been submitted:
“Rest assured that if the Council decide not to release this document because of ‘commercial confidentiality’ or other legal reason, we will use the death of Mr Banfield to gain the truth as to what CCP promised and is delivering. This is NOT, I repeat not, because we are using this man’s tragic death as a scapegoat for our Campaign – but rather making sure Cardon did not die in vain, and there remains a high risk that someone else could die on our streets before the winter of 2016 is over.
It is my ambition to ensure our most vulnerable on the streets are properly looked after and that their lives aren’t put in danger because of a political ideology which sees ‘open market competition’ decrease a service just to save money. These are human beings, and it is a very sad fact that Mr Banfield might not have died in the circumstances he did (left to decompose) if there had been a comprehensive outreach service which knew of his whereabouts. I, personally, are campaigning for justice to be delivered in the name of Cardon, an immediate review of the Single Person and Childless Couples Homeless Prevention Support Service and Worcester City Council to change its stance that rough sleepers should not have to approach services just to receive assistance.
There is a toxic cultural position which Worcester City Council Homelessness Department has which puts the blame on the very people they are paid to assist by Worcester residents. This organisational cultural position was exposed in its glory last December over the Scarfgate row which saw the Council Housing Manager state that “rough sleeping was a lifestyle choice that people make” (hear the organic soundclip at the bottom of the article or click here), and then backtrack days later. Although a public apology was given, even on the Authority’s own website, the sentiment of own choice lives on in Council Officers’ work
Both CCP, Worcester City Council and all other agencies paid for by public money must remember to be transparent and accountable to their bosses – which are NOT the Local Authority, politicians or charities but instead the person who pays their taxes every month from their hard-earned wage packet.”
Whilst #TentDeath has been extremely tragic and really hit the public and services of Worcester hard, it is only right that people are held accountable as to what services are available to help our residents – any of whom could be homeless or rough sleeping at any point in time.
Pictured at the top of this article is the Freedom of Information Act request to Worcester City Council which Hugo Sugg submitted about the Tender.