OPEN LETTER – 16/08/2016
After the appalling situation headlined on the Worcester News front page (14th August 2017), I am writing this letter to openly call for removal of staff and Elected Members responsible for service development and commissioning of community services in Worcester City Council. As well as the Local Authority – members of staff from organisations which are meant to be assisting in reducing vulnerable people from suffering on our streets.
Drug use is on the streets of Worcester, as evident by the three Worcester News articles over the past week. If services were adequate, there would be no need for people to be lying in a doorway in the City Centre begging for money or drugs, or allegedly with a needle sticking out of a limb in the middle of the day during the summer holidays.
Services like homelessness and substance misuse are commissioned (given to organisations via contracts) by the City or County Council.
In the first two months of 2016, the then-Conservative Cabinet Member of Housing of Worcester City Council Cllr Lucy Hodgson along with Council staff agreed to change the Homeless Service which included an Outreach service. By May 2016, Ben Bradley of Worcester City Council had drafted the “Single Person and Childless Couples Homeless Prevention Support Service” which changed the comprehensive Outreach Service seen under the Worcestershire Homelessness Intervention Team (WHIT) to a non-defined “Light Touch” service. This was approved by Nina Warrinton, Strategic Housing Manager – in the department overseen by current Managing Director of Worcester City Council: David Blake.
4.8 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 what does this Light Touch service mean? The winners of the Single Person and Childless Couples Contract, County Community Projects (CCP), refused to challenge the Council on the definition of the service they had to run – and waited until after the service was launched on April 1st 2016. The agreement between the Council and CCP as to what “Light Touch” Outreach meant is CCP staff walking around the streets every 4 weeks.
This all comes after a tragedy unfolded on the 5th July 2016. Cardon Banfield, a 74 year old gentleman born in St Vincent and the Grenadines was found meters away from Worcestershire Cricket Club in New Road in a tent – by a warden from the Cricket Club. Cardon’s body was that rotten and heavily decomposed when found that it was impossible to identify him until October.
Cardon Banfield was missed by the service responsible, because the Council reduced the very service that had known and worked with him previously.
Maggs Day Centre, based 10 minutes walk from the location Cardon was found admitted that Cardon had visited them, but they had FAILED to refer him onto CCP. Mel Kirk, CEO of Maggs has tried to abdicate responsibility but fails to understand that intervention into Cardon’s life in 2016 might have saved his life. We call on the Maggs Board of Trustees to cast a Vote of No Confidence in Mel Kirk’s leadership and for Mel Kirk to resign from Maggs Day Centre altogether.
The City Council stated in the press that they did not know of Cardon, however this is likely to be untrue – as Cardon was known on the Council ‘LinkUp’ database before it was commissioned in 2014, and made a Housing Benefit Claim when resident in Worcester YMCA which was processed by South Worcestershire Revenues and Benefits service.
An official investigation into Cardon’s death by the Worcestershire Safeguarding Adults Board which I called for in November got REJECTED just days before Christmas 2016 because Cardon was not known to enough services to warrant an investigation. The Police have not mentioned publicly if they carried out an investigation which is not good enough.
We believe that if there had been an Outreach service still in existence, Cardon might have been found before he rotted and decomposed by a commissioned service. As we won’t ever know the cause of his death because the Coroner recorded an Open Verdict, we cannot say he would still be alive if found earlier.
In fact, the Council’s own Worcestershire Homelessness Review 2016 acknowledges that there is a gap in provision for Outreach and recommends for an Outreach service to be created for entrenched rough sleepers.
Had there been a comprehensive Outreach service still similar to the one pre-April 2016, there would be a team of people walking around daily which would reduce the amount of drug dealers settling on Worcester’s streets begging, injecting or sleeping rough. They would be being referred onto agencies which are there to support them. I have been a vocal opponent to the eradication of Outreach since March 2016.
Due to incompetence shown by the following names, we are calling for the resignation or dismissal from their positions with immediate effect.
Worcester City Council Staff: Nina Warrington (firstname.lastname@example.org),
Ben Bradley (email@example.com),
David Blake (firstname.lastname@example.org) and
Elected Member Cllr Lucy Hodgson (email@example.com).
Maggs Day Centre: Mel Kirk (firstname.lastname@example.org)
CCP: Adrian Warburton (email@example.com)
The above names have made or signed off decisions which have meant the most vulnerable in Worcestershire are at greater risk of not receiving help and support for their needs. I call on every one who shares the sentiments in this open letter to write an email to the above people calling for their resignation.
Until these people leave their positions, the lives of the homeless and drug users will be made worse by the impact of past decisions taken.
Founder of Hugo’s Earthquake Campaign