Burnham announces £1.8m bond to help homeless

The Mayor of Greater Manchester said the Government-backed money will provide accommodation and health support for up to 200 people over the next three years.

The announcement came after the Greater Manchester reform board met and discussed actions that could reduce homelessness and rough sleeping. The plans support Burnham’s pledge to end homelessness in Greater Manchester by 2020. Research from Shelter shows that there are more than 4,420 people without permanent housing in Greater Manchester, and that at least 180 of these are sleeping rough.

The combined authority said the contract for the social impact bond will be used for direct work with people on the streets in need of immediate help. It is one of eight bonds approved by the Government and is the largest outside of London.

The money, funded by the private sector, will be used to help homeless people find and keep a home, provide support to find employment, education or training, and enable access to support services around mental health and addiction.

The board recommended that no patient is discharged from hospital without a home, and providing arrangements for homeless people to access free eye tests while taking a flexible approach to proof of identity.

There was support for a ‘good landlord’ scheme, regulating private landlords to improve the standard of rented homes, as well as one-bedroom accommodation as part of a rethink on the spatial framework. The board recommended that the fire and rescue service should be committed to using all 41 fire stations across Greater Manchester to support homeless people, by partnering with community and groups to provide shelter and food and drink.

Burnham said that services will be on Greater Manchester’s streets by the end of October. Details will follow on what these services are, which organisation will receive the £1.8m three-year contract, and how the money will be distributed.

The reform board also called on the Government to halt the roll-out of the universal credit benefit scheme. All members, including chief executives of the 10 Greater Manchester councils, the region’s chief health officer and housing providers, agreed this was fundamental to reducing rough sleeping across the region.

Concerns have been raised that claimants have been made to use food banks because of the mandatory six-week wait to receive money. The scheme aims to simplify the welfare system by merging six benefits into one.

Burnham said: “This is not a political point. I am speaking for the entire board, the entire public sector in Greater Manchester, when I make this plea to the Prime Minister and Government. You must suspend the roll out of the universal credit benefit.

“It was a unanimous view in the meeting that universal credit will make the homeless and rough sleeping problem here dramatically worse. If it goes ahead as planned we will see a much greater problem unfold in front of our eyes.”

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